After a trucker slams into you and causes a catastrophic accident, you’ll be wondering how to hold them accountable. Good news: A legal doctrine means you can hold a trucking company responsible when their driver causes a trucking accident.
It’s called the doctrine of Respondeat Superior in legalese, or Respondent Superior in layman’s terms. It means “let the superior respond.” In this case, the superior is the trucking company.
How to Prove the Employer Should Be Held Responsible
It might seem that the trucking company should automatically be held responsible for a trucking accident, but it’s not always quite that easy. You’ll have to prove several things to hold them legally liable.
First, you’ll have to prove that the driver was acting within the scope of their work as a trucker on behalf of the company. An employee doesn’t own, maintain, or insure their own truck – the trucking firm handles those activities and is superior to the employee.
One method of establishing the trucker’s employment includes presenting IRS records showing that the trucking company withholds taxes from the driver’s paycheck. This requires demanding access to certain documents, which your lawyer can help you accomplish.
What if the trucker is an independent contractor? This isn’t necessarily a defense. In the mid-1950s, Congress amended the Motor Carrier Safety Act to prevent trucking companies from using independent contractors to hide from liability. You can still make a claim against the trucking company acting as the driver’s “superior.”
Next, you’ll need to prove whether the negligent act was unintentional and that it happened within the scope of the driver’s job responsibilities. This involves the concept of “being on the clock,” or actively working for a trucking company at the time of the accident.
Proving the driver was on the clock can be challenging, but it’s much easier if you have access to certain information from the trucking company. This leads to our next point: Your lawyer can be extremely helpful with gaining access to the crucial trucking data and logbooks you’ll need to make a strong case.
Did the Trucking Company Fail to Follow the Law?
Keep in mind that trucking companies are governed by strict federal and state safety regulations. They’re required to keep detailed records with information about truckers’ qualifications, prior accidents, tickets, incident reports, drug and alcohol testing, and precisely where and when they’ve been driving.
You have the right to request the driver’s logbook. It shows how long they’ve been working per shift, their total miles driven, and other helpful information. Most trucking companies also use electronic logging devices or black boxes that show GPS tracking, time spent behind the wheel, and other driving data.
Also, any trucking accident is supposed to be inspected by a certified inspector before it leaves the accident scene. You’ll need this report in addition to the police report. You and your lawyer can work together to examine all of these records in detail and see if they support your case.
Maybe the trucking company failed to do proper maintenance and allowed the brakes to become worn and dangerous. Or perhaps they allowed a drowsy or unsafe trucker to stay on the road. If the company neglected something important, they may have contributed to the conditions that caused your accident.
Let’s Start Building Your Case Against the Trucking Company
There are many ways you can build a mountain of evidence that the trucker’s employer should be held responsible for your accident. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not worth pursuing your case because people hold trucking companies liable for accidents every day, right here in California.
You may have a strong case for high-dollar compensation. Sometimes a trucking company is liable for an accident and needs to be held accountable to keep everyone safe on the road. Let’s start a free and confidential consultation so you can put the blame where it belongs!
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After an accident, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many types of personal injury claims, including truck accidents. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details.
We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.
When is a truck company liable for the accident? So you can actually have a trucking company or an employer of the driver be held liable for an accident through a legal doctrine called Respondent Superior, which basically just means let the superior respond. In order for the employer to be held liable for the employee’s negligence, there are a couple of different things that you need to prove. First of all, you need to prove that the driver was an employee, and not an independent contractor.
So, for a quick example, if the truck is owned, maintained, and insured by the driver themselves, as opposed to the company, it’s more likely that that driver is an independent contractor. If the trucking company withholds taxes from the driver’s paycheck, then it’s more likely that the driver is an employee. So that’s one thing that you’re going to need to look into no matter what, when you’re trying to prove negligence on the part of the trucking company itself.
The other thing you’re going to need to do is prove that the negligent act was unintentional. In other words, that it was an accident. And finally, you need to show that the accident happened within the course and scope of the driver’s job responsibilities. We also call this being on the clock. So, those are the top things you’re going to need to prove to show that Respondent Superior will apply, and be able to hold the trucking company liable for the driver’s negligence.