Who is Liable after a Truck Accident?
- September 16, 2014
- Truck Accidents
In many ways, a claim that is related to an accident involving a commercial truck will proceed in the same manner as a claim for a regular traffic accident. However, there are some key differences that make these cases more complicated. One factor that adds to the complexity of a truck accident case is identifying all of the parties that are liable. With this type of case, you don’t just have the driver as a potential liability holder, but there may also be a collection of entities that are in some way legally connected to the truck and/or the load. These relationships can often be difficult to untangle and it usually requires the industry know how of a truck accident lawyer to figure it all out.
The Liability of the Trucking Company
When it comes to a commercial trucking accident, there is a specific common-law theory that states that the employer or truck owner is responsible for the actions of the driver. This doctrine is known as Respondeat Superior. This rule is based on the idea that there are certain risks that will occur with the operation of a business and that it should be the business owner that assumes responsibility for the risks as part of the cost of operating the business. However, the trucking company is only responsible if the incident that occurred was within the scope of the driver’s employment.
Establishing that the incident occurred within the scope of the driver’s employment can sometimes be a little tricky and it is an important factor in proving the liability of the trucking company. The idea is that, if the driver was using the truck for something other than his or her duties as an employee, then the liability of the employer should, at the very least, be limited.
If an independent contractor operates the commercial vehicle, the driver has no employer and he or she will be liable for their own actions. However, there could be other entities that hold some level of responsibility for the accident. Depending on the language of the contract, the company that hired the driver might be liable to some degree. When it comes to the level of liability between an independent contractor and the company that hires them, it often comes down to how much control that the company doing the hiring has over the actions of the driver. The contracts between these two parties will often include language that relieves the company of responsibility, but if the contract also contains strict standards for how the job is to be done, it could impart some liability on to the contracting company.
As you can see, putting together all of the parts of the liability for a trucking accident can be rather complex. In some situations, there may even be more defendants, like the owner of the freight or the manufacturer of the truck, that will need to answer for some level of responsibility. For a person that has been injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, the best chance for identifying all of the responsible parties and holding them to the correct level of liability will be with the services of an attorney that has experience with commercial trucking accidents.