If you are involved in an accident caused by a tractor-trailer truck, the appropriate thing to do will likely involve claiming against both the truck driver and the trucking company for their negligent or reckless actions.
This article will examine when it’s an appropriate course of action to sue the driver’s company.
Was the Truck Driver an Employee?
Typically, the driver of a tractor-trailer truck will be either an employee or an independent contractor. If the driver is an employee, the company is likely to be liable under the standard of “respondeat superior”, a doctrine which assigns “vicarious liability” to an employer. The rationale is that when an employee is performing his regular duties on behalf of an employer, that employer is liable for the actions of the employee.
Being able to sue a company in addition to an individual driver can allow for a more significant damage award since an individual driver tends to have less insurance coverage than an organization. On the other hand, insurance companies tend may be more difficult to recover from (that is, claims tend to take longer) when they’re defending larger amount of money.
Complications can arise when the truck driver is an independent contractor. Here, the company will try to argue that the truck driver is not an employee, so there is no liability on the company’s part for the driver’s actions. Still, this argument does not necessarily rule out the possibility of recovering from the trucking company.
Was the Trucking Company Negligent?
Regardless of the driver’s behavior, a trucking company may be found liable for negligence if it can be shown that any of the following occurred:
– Lack of proper inspection or maintenance: If the fleet of trucks were not kept in good repair or regular maintenance was not scheduled or performed, the trucking company could be potentially liable for an accident.
– Negligent hiring practices: Did the trucking company properly screen applicants? Were prospective employees adequately vetted? A pattern of hiring unqualified drivers can show negligence.
– Not performing drug tests: Some industries either encourage or require employees to undergo drug tests. If the trucking company was not screening drivers for the presence of drugs in their system, this could be a sign of negligence.
– FMCSA violations: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is charged with “improving the safety of commercial motor vehicles.” As part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the FMCSA develops standards and enforces regulations that promote safety among commercial vehicles. If a trucking company has racked up violations, it can be strong evidence of negligence.
Other Negligent Parties
The driver and the trucking company aren’t the only parties that you can potentially sue. Negligence can also be established among:
– The owner of the truck: Some companies don’t own their trucks, but only lease them. Depending on who is responsible for maintenance, the owner could be liable.
– The truck manufacturer: If the truck had a defect when it left the factory and the defect contributed to the accident, then the manufacturer could be held liable.
– The cargo loader: If the party responsible for loading the cargo onto the truck did so negligently, they could share liability.
– The maintenance company: If another company was responsible for the truck’s maintenance and failed to perform reasonably, they could be partially liable for the accident.
Were You Injured in a Tractor Trailer Truck Accident?
At Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers, we have a long and successful track record of representing accident victims. We encourage you to contact us today at 800-PERKINS for a free consultation. In addition to discussing your case at no charge, we don’t collect payment until your claim is successfully resolved.