Mullen & Mullen Law Firm

Hurt in a Truck Accident? Who’s Liable? The Driver or Company?

Hurt in a truck accident? The resulting legal battle can be quite complex. Learn who might be liable for your injuries in this post.

You’re in a car accident. The other driver ran a red light. It’s pretty clear they have fault.

Now, change that car to a semi-truck. Is the driver responsible?

The answer is still yes but it’s important to remember that his or her employer may also be liable for your injuries.

Let’s get right into the details:

  1. When Does the Company Have Liability?

If the semi-truck driver was an employee of a trucking company and operating the vehicle in the course and scope of his or her employment, the trucking company would also be liable for the injuries you sustained, as long as the driver’s conduct was negligent or reckless.

The employer should be financially responsible if its employee injures someone while in the course and scope of employment. Employers usually have much more money than any one employee and have more opportunity to protect themselves with insurance. The employer benefits from the employee’s work in terms of its profits/revenue and has to assume the risk associated with that employee’s work. Legally, this is called “respondeat superior,” which means “let the superior make the answer” in Latin.

  1. When the Truck Driver May be Responsible…

Not every truck driver is an employee of a company. Instead, it’s a common business practice in trucking to hire “independent contractors” as truck drivers. While they still perform the service of driving the route, independent contractors are responsible for paying for their own oil, gas, repairs, and benefits. They typically make their own schedules and choose when and if they work on any given day.

In most cases, independent contractors are legally liable for their own actions.

This aspect of the trucking business gets murky. As you might guess, some companies want to shift financial liability to the driver when they can. And it’s a reason you want to have an expert personal injury attorney on your side. Determining whether a driver is an independent contractor for a company vs. an employee of a company is a fact intensive question and courts and government agencies rely on a laundry list of factors in arriving at a conclusion.

  1. The One Exception Where the Company Does Not Have Liability for Employee Actions

As is usually the case with the law, exceptions exist. Fortunately, this one is fairly straightforward. Companies are generally not responsible for the intentional torts of its employees.

For example, you accidentally cut off a truck driver while on the road. To get you back, they swerve over and force you into another lane of traffic, where you hit another vehicle. The liability in this case would most likely be on the semi-truck driver, and not the company.

Truck Accident Law is Complex

With truck accidents, both Federal and Texas state laws can apply. So, what would be a fairly simple case if a car was involved becomes extremely complicated when a semi-truck causes the accident. Plus, these 18-wheeler accidents can cost trucking companies lots of money. So, they have teams of experts fully dedicated to minimizing their liability or eliminating it entirely.

Make sure you hire the best personal injury lawyer you can if you find yourself in an accident with an 18-wheeler.