When a commercial truck is involved in an accident, it may not always be clear who is liable for any damages that were caused. If other drivers or passengers were hurt in the accident, is it the driver or who they work for that should be held responsible for any damages? The law will vary by state and by circumstance, so it's best to do your research before heading to court so you know how the case is most likely to turn out.
There are cases in which the company is liable for any damages awarded in a truck accident involving one of their drivers. There is a principle known as 'Respondeat superior' where a company is held responsible for the actions of their employees or those who are contracted to work for them. If it is proven that the accident was unintentional and happened during the working hours and while performing duties for their employer, then the company is liable for any damages.
Independent Contractors vs Employees
When an accident occurs, it is important to determine if the truck driver is an employee of the company they work for or if they are an independent contractor. This makes a difference in who is liable for any damages paid after a court hearing. If the driver is an independent contractor, then the company they are contracted to is not liable for the accident.
Each state has their own laws regarding how the legal system deals with commercial truck accidents, but as a general rule, if the driver owns their truck and holds their own liability insurance, then the driver is responsible. If the driver is an employee of the company and using their vehicles, then the liability falls on the company.
While the laws are pretty clear on who has liability when a truck is involved in an accident, there are some exceptions to the rule. In the case of an employee's involvement in a truck accident, if the driver commits an intentional act, such as deliberately driving their truck into another car causing an accident, then the company is not liable and full responsibility falls on the driver for all damages.
If the driver is performing the work they were hired to do, the intent, the driver's conduct, the type of work they are doing and even the amount of time it takes to complete the task all play into if a company is liable or whether the driver is. Contact a trucking accident attorney like Teresa P Williams PA for more information.