After being in an accident with a commercial truck driver, you might assume that all of the liability falls on the driver.
But, did you know that you can hold the trucking company accountable for the damages you have suffered?
This makes sense on the surface because companies are generally responsible for the actions of their employees.
But the question of who is liable in a trucking accident isn't always as straightforward as it seems.
In the article below, we'll talk about the issues that determine who is liable after a devastating truck crash.
Factors That Determine Liability
If you're involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, determining liability can be a complex issue.
When you begin to seek compensation for your damages, medical bills, and lost wages in a truck accident, the situation is rarely as simple as filing a claim with the driver's insurance.
That's because multiple parties may be liable for different reasons.
The driver might be liable for driving too many hours.
The trucking company may be liable for not ensuring their vehicles are adequately maintained or for not properly training their drivers.
A parts manufacturer could also be liable for a defective product.
And in some states, you have to first prove that you aren't liable for the accident.
Figuring out who is negligent in a truck accident can be difficult, especially if you're not familiar with trucking accident cases and the nuanced law surrounding them.
And if you are injured and trying to focus on your health and medical treatment, it makes everything much harder to begin with.
The "Independent Contractor" Defense
Until 1956, truck companies often shielded themselves against liability by leasing trucks and drivers.
This allowed them to classify those drivers as independent contractors.
But in 1956, Congress amended the law to prevent trucking companies from hiding behind this tactic.
Now the law states that any trucking company leasing a truck must have exclusive possession, control, and use of the trucking equipment for the duration of the lease.
They must also assume complete responsibility for the operation of the equipment.
The "independent contractor" defense against trucking company negligence has been invalid for decades.
However, defense attorneys still try to raise it in court from time to time.
That's why it's essential to have an experienced trucking accident lawyer on your side who can quickly dismantle this argument.
Did the Truck Driver Act Within the Scope of Employment?
In some cases, a trucking company will only be held liable for an accident if the truck driver acted within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred.
The courts will look to state agency laws to decide whether or not this is the case.
These laws vary from state to state, but there are common factors determining the court's answer to this question.
- The employees intent
- The nature, time, and place of the employee's conduct
- The work the employee was hired to do
- Incidental acts the employer should reasonably expect the employee to do
- The level of freedom allowed to the employee in performing his or her duties
If the truck driver acts outside of the scope of their employment when the accident occurs, the court may find that they are liable for some of the damages, with the rest of the landing with another party.
If the court in your case examines the scope of employment and if the truck driver was acting as an employee at the time of your accident, your accident attorney can anticipate this issue and plan accordingly.
Determining liability is a small part of the complex process involved in filing a personal injury claim after a trucking accident.
Because commercial trucks are often devastating and complicated, it's always important to seek legal advice from a professional trucking attorney.
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