Personal injury cases involving a tractor-trailer or another commercial vehicle are often more complex than car accidents. Even though it may appear obvious that the truck driver is at fault, you need to carefully consider whether the trucker or the trucking company or both are liable for your injuries.
When is a Trucking Company Liable for Your Injuries?
In commercial truck accidents, the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior” (let the superior respond) may apply while determining liability. According to this doctrine, the trucking company could be held liable for the truck driver employee’s negligent conduct.
In these type of personal injury cases, the employer may be responsible for the negligent actions of their employee or agent, subject to the condition that the act was committed within the scope of employment and was not an intentional act.
Employment or Contractual Relationship
When considering the issue of liability in commercial truck accidents, one of the key things to be determined is whether the truck driver is the trucking company’s employee or an independent contractor. Trucking companies sometimes hire independent contractors to avoid liability, and the terms of their contract with the driver might absolve them of any responsibility for your injuries.
In these situations, the law generally focuses on whether the employer (trucking company) controlled how the truck driver’s job is performed. If the company controls the outcome of the work, but now how that outcome is achieved, then an independent contractor relationship may be held valid.
For instance, if the truck driver was using his own truck, was responsible for the truck’s upkeep and maintenance at his own cost, filled his own gas, and bought the liability insurance policy on his own, while receiving payments on a “per route” basis in exchange for the services rendered, chances are that the law will view the driver as an independent contractor while determining liability.
It is also important to look at whether the trucking company was providing any employee benefits, or withholding taxes from the driver’s payments, or directing the driver how to operate the truck and how to make deliveries. If the company has engaged in these practices, you could argue that the truck driver had an employment relationship and the trucking company should be held liable for your injuries.
Actions that are Within the Scope of Employment
Courts will usually look at the following facts to determine whether the truck driver employee was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the accident:
- The time, place and nature of the driver’s conduct
- The intent of the driver at the time of the accident
- The type of job that the driver had been hired to perform
- Incidental acts that the driver is reasonably expect to perform
- The extent of freedom or flexibility that the employer usually gives to the driver to carry out the duties
Direct Negligence of the Trucking Company
In many cases, trucking companies may be directly negligent in their actions, which could contribute to your personal injury. The company recklessly or intentionally violate safety rules to cut down costs, which may lead to your accident. Common examples of negligence shown by trucking companies include:
- Poor maintenance of the tractor-trailer
- Permitting the truck to carry unbalanced cargo
- Overloading of the trailer
- Knowingly ignoring the driver’s acts of safety violations
- Negligence in hiring or improper training of truck drivers
- Negligent retention of a driver with a bad track record
- Pushing drivers to meet deadlines even at the cost of violating sleep and hour restrictions
Call an Accomplished Truck Accident Lawyer
If you have suffered injuries in a tractor-trailer accident, you may have a claim against multiple defendants. Commercial truck accident attorneys at Shapiro & Appleton have authoritative knowledge of these cases, and we can hold the responsible parties liable for your injuries. Call us at 800-752-0042 to schedule a consultation.