Who is Responsible for a Truck Driver’s Negligence

Recovering compensation for injuries from a tractor trailer crash can be complicated. Determining who is responsible for a truck driver’s negligence is critical to recovering money for your injuries.  Handling a trucking case requires specialized knowledge and legal skill. It is important for people who have suffered injuries to get expert advice as soon as possible.

To show that a trucking company is reponsible for the driver’s negligence important legal issues must be decided. One important question is whether the driver is an employee or independent contractor of the trucking company. To perform a job, you can hire an employee or an independent contractor. When a driver is an employee of the trucking company the company will be responsible for the negligent act of the employed driver. To be liable for the driver’s negligence the things the driver did wrong must be within the “scope and course” of employment. A trucking company is generally not liable for the acts of an independent contractor. The exception to this rule is if the contractor hired is incompetent to perform the work.

It is common for companies to claim negligent drivers are independent contractors. Written contracts may state a driver is an independent contractor. However, the written contract alone will not govern this issue. Whether a driver is an employee or an independent contractor can be complicated and is driven by facts that require complete investigation. For example, the driver may be an owner-operator of the truck. Or the driver may be driving a tractor owned by one company, and a trailer owned by another. The driver may be identified as an employee or independent contractor in a written agreement but under the direction and control of another company. The company controlling the driver may or may not have motor carrier authority.

Who is Responsible for the Truck Driver’s Harmful Conduct?

Determining what negligent conduct is within the “scope and “course” of employment can be difficult with facts both supporting and not supporting the legal theory. To help determine when a driver is an employee acting in the scope and course of employment courts consider many factors. The laws of each state differ, and federal regulations and statutes may also have an impact.  However, in general some of the factors commonly considered include:

  • The work done by the driver.
  • The time, place and nature of the work.
  • The intent of the parties.
  • The employer’s right to control the driver.
  • Who owns the equipment.
  • Wording of written agreements.
  • Contact between the employer and driver.
  • Who dispatches and directs the driver.

Even if the Driver is not an Employee Other Legal Theories May Allow You to Recover

Even when a driver is determined to be an independent contractor there are other legal theories and facts that may still allow you to recover for your injuries. This can be based upon federal regulations which legally impute liability of a truck driver working under the authority of a motor carrier, or a motor carrier who has leased a vehicle. There is also a possibility of recovering under other state law legal theories such as agency or joint venture liability or the retention of an incompetent independent contractor. There may also be other parties responsible for the collision, such as truck brokers, shippers, maintenance companies or product manufactures.

Gump & Faiella has been representing injury victims and their family’s for decades. If you or a family member has suffered harm from a truck collision let us help. Call Now 800-264-3455

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