When a victim is injured in a trucking accident, it may be difficult to know exactly who is liable for the damages. Truck accidents are complicated because there are so many potential avenues of liability. Companies often set up their corporate structure in a manner to avoid being held accountable to the truckers who drive for them. The truck driver, who is not an employee, may be at fault but the trucking company may still be responsible liable for any damages caused by the driver.
Some truck drivers are independent owners, but many are company employees. It is important to have the help of an attorney who understands the difference in these scenarios and how to determine who is actually liable or responsible for the damages.
What If A Truck Driver Is Employed By A Company?
When a truck driver is an employee of a company, the liability of the company for a truck driver’s actions is governed by the theory of respondeat superior. This means that the driver is acting on behalf of the company when he or she gets behind the wheel to drive on a company job. If a driver is carrying out an employer’s instructions, it is likely that he or she is acting as a company agent.
It is very important to understand that even if a driver acts in direct contradiction to a company’s policy, he or she may still be considered an agent and may be acting within the scope of employment. As long as the driver is engaged in company business, there is a strong probability that the company will be liable for any damages the driver causes.
What If A Driver Owns His Own Truck?
An area that can be a bit murkier is that of the independent operator or contractor who contracts with a company. In most cases, such a driver is considered an independent contractor but may still open the company to liability if he or she causes an accident. An experience attorney knows that in trucking accident cases that just because someone claims to be an independent contractor, the trucking company may still be responsible.
Similarly, a driver who leaves work and causes an accident on “personal time” may or may not be considered to be acting in the scope of employment.
In some cases, employers are not responsible for the actions of their employees. For example, if a long-haul trucker assaults someone at a truck stop, the employer will probably not be held liable simply because the trucker was not acting within the scope of the job. However, there have been cases where employers have been held liable for the actions of an employee even when it appear the employee was acting without the knowledge or consent of the employer.
Whether a driver is a contracted employee, an on-the-clock employee or an independent contractor, it is important to establish the level of liability of each party in a truck accident quickly. In order to do this, it is often beneficial to consult an Orlando truck accident attorney with proven experience in semi truck accident cases.