Truck Driver vs Trucking Company Liability can be complicated
When a semi-truck driver causes an accident, liability would seem to be a foregone conclusion. However, while many “big rig” drivers work for companies that carry liability insurance in the event of an accident, many others are independent contractors who are responsible for carrying their own coverage. In fact, many of these drivers own their own rigs and work on jobs for many different companies, making a lawsuit in the event of an accident complicated and confusing.
When Is The Driver Liable Vs The Trucking Company?
When someone is injured by a truck driver, it is possible that the trucking company may be liable for damages. However, unless the driver was an employee, it is unlikely that a lawsuit against the company will be particularly effective.
When a truck driver is an independent contractor who is working with a particular company on a job-by-job basis, the company may not be liable for all acts of the driver. Many companies are moving away from the employer-employee model toward a company-contractor model of doing business precisely to avoid the overhead costs associated with hiring drivers as employees.
The first and most important question that must be answered before filing a lawsuit in a trucking accident is whether the driver is in fact an employee of the company or an independent contractor. The answer to this question will determine the best course of action to take in recovering compensation.
Acts Within The Scope Of Employment
If the driver is an employee, then a doctrine known as vicarious liability will generally apply and the company may be held liable for the driver’s actions. However, if the driver is an independent contractor, the victim’s only recourse may be to sue the driver individually.
One other thing to keep in mind when determining an employer/employee relationship between a driver and a trucking company is that employers may not be held liable for intentional acts on the part of the driver. Vicarious liability typically applies if the driver was acting in the scope of his or her employment when the crash occurred. That is usually the case, but there are circumstances in which this may not be true. For example, if the employee steals the company’s truck to commit a crime, the company may be indemnified for damages caused by these criminal actions.
In order to clearly establish whether an employee was acting within the scope of employment, courts will generally consider the intent of the employee, if such can be established; the nature of the employee’s conduct; the type of work the employee normally does; the reasonable expectations the employer has of the employee; and whether the employer has control over the employee’s access to the vehicle.
What Can A Truck Accident Victim Expect From a Lawsuit?
Victims of trucking accidents often find that these lawsuits are complicated and require the help of an attorney who has experience handling truck accident injury cases. This is because so many different state and federal laws may apply to the trucking company or the driver that it may be difficult to determine whether either was in compliance with mandatory regulations. Our article on proving liability in an 18 wheeler accident claim goes into more detail. Additionally, the legal relationship between a driver and a trucking company may be complex. In most cases, a truck accident lawyer is a necessity for those who want to collect the maximum amount possible to pay for medical bills, pain and suffering and lost wages.
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a trucking accident in Florida you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. There are time limits in place to file a claim and protect your rights. To learn how one of our Orlando truck accident Lawyers may be able to help you, please fill out our free case review form today.