Determining fault in a vehicle accidents can be challenging. This is particularly true in a commercial truck accident case, even when it seems obvious one truck seemed to have caused the accident. The reason for this is that one or more parties related to the truck may be responsible, including the driver, owner, trucking company, maintenance personnel, loader, or others.
Trucking company liability
Trucking companies are often held legally responsible for the damage caused by one of their drivers based on the legal theory of “respondeat superior.” Translated from the Latin, this phrase means, “let the superior answer.” In other words, in modern application, the employer is liable for persons under its employ and any wrongful actions they may perform under the scope of employment. This principle applies to accidents – acts that are unintentionally committed. In these cases, the employer (trucking company) bears liability as if it was the one to commit the act and not the employee.
Trucking companies are generally considered to be financially stable and more able to protect themselves through insurance than employee drivers. The losses that trucking companies incur due to the wrongful acts of employees is marked up to the cost of doing business.
Was the driver within the scope of his or her employment?
For a trucking company to bear legal responsibility for a wrongful action by one of its drivers, the driver must have been operating within the scope of his or her employment at the time of the truck accident. Multiple factors are involved in the determination of whether the scope of employment was in force during the act. Some of these include the
- The type of work the employee was hired to perform
- Place, time, and nature of the action
- Intent of the employee
- The incidental actions the employer expected of the employee
- The level of freedom the employee was given to perform his or her duties
Independent contractor liability
The theory of respondeat superior does not apply in cases when a victim has been injured by a commercial truck with the driver as an independent contractor. Trucking companies generally do not bear liability for the wrongful actions of these contractors.
An independent contractor may complete routes for a trucking company (or more than one) with a truck the contractor owns, but carries his or her own liability insurance coverage.
Independent contractors may operate in negligent or reckless ways, such as:
- Driving while fatigued
- Driving aggressively while distracted
- Driving while distracted
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Due to the fact that independent contractors are not trucking company employees, any negligence they exhibit is a reflection on them when they initiate an accident and cause injury to others. In other words, they bear sole liability for the damages they cause in these cases.
Other potential at-fault parties
Although employers such as trucking companies can be held legally responsible for an employee truck driver’s negligence, some truck accidents are caused by non-truck-related parties. Other drivers on the roadway, for example, maybe cause an accident involving a commercial truck, but not be a part of the accident themselves.
If you have been victimized by the negligent action of a truck-related party in a truck accident and need justice and compensation for your injuries, the Tulsa truck accident attorneys at Biby Law Firm can help. We are experienced at pursing the maximum compensation for our clients. To arrange a free case review, give us a call today at 918.574.8458 or complete our contact form.
Jacob Biby has spent his legal career helping folks just like you get the resources they need after an injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 2008. Jacob is licensed to practice in all Oklahoma state and federal courts, and has limited his career to representing individuals and families who were injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Learn more about Jacob Biby.