If you are involved in an accident with a major commercial truck or similar vehicle and believe another party was at fault, you may be looking to file multiple claims for property damage or injuries sustained. Claims may be made against a negligent truck driver, for one, but you may also look to pursue legal action against the driver’s company as well.
At the offices of John D. Halepaska, we’re proud to provide trucking accident injury attorney services to all those in this position wondering who might be held liable for their injuries. Because of some unique employment methods and resulting liability laws, this area might be a bit more complex or challenging than normal liability claims. Today’s blog will go over what you need to know about liability in trucking accidents and receiving just compensation.
Independent Contractor vs. Employee
Much of this realm revolves around one basic differentiation within the trucking world (and many others): Independent contractors versus employees. The vast majority of trucking companies list their drivers as independent contractors, meaning they can set their own hours and have a much looser connection to the company; fewer label drivers as employees, who must receive benefits and other services from the company.
And in some cases of an accident taking place with a driver, the company will attempt to claim that because the driver is an independent contractor, only the individual is responsible for damages. As you’ll see, however, there are ways around this.
In cases where the driver in question is an employee of their trucking company, it will generally be easy to file a claim or lawsuit against the company. In cases where the driver is an independent contractor, however, a stipulation known respondeat superior will generally come into play.
This is a legal term that means “let the superior answer,” and it’s almost always applicable to trucking companies who use independent contractors for drivers. Trucking companies will be held vicariously liable for these incidents in nearly every case, with courts looking at whether the accident occurred during working hours, the intent of the driver and other factors.
Other Company Liability Cases
On top of vicarious liability, there are a few other situations where trucking companies can be held liable for damages caused by negligent drivers they employ:
- Improper training for new drivers
- Unsafe working conditions, such as requiring long hours without breaks
- Failure to ensure drivers comply with CDL renewal requirements
- Allowing or encouraging drivers to violate trucking regulations
- Failing to provide proper maintenance, repairs or inspections on trucks driven
When Trucking Companies are Not Liable
While it’s rarer in these cases, there are situations where trucking companies will not be liable at all for damages caused by their drivers. If there is proof, for instance, that the driver caused the accident on purpose, liability will often fall solely to the driver. Intent is the main factor here – if personal motivations are at play, there’s a better chance the trucking company is not liable.
For more on liability claims against trucking companies, or to learn about any of our personal injury or auto injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of John D. Halepaska today.