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Is a trucking company liable if one of their drivers causes a car accident?
It’s possible that a trucking or shipping company could be
on the legal hook for your damages in this situation. But before you can know
for sure whether you have the option to sue
a trucking company after an accident, you need to get a full understanding
of the legal relationship between the company and the driver.
The only way the company can be legally responsible for the
driver’s negligent operation of the truck (assuming that is what caused your
accident) is if the driver was actually an employee of the company.
It may seem like this kind of relationship is a foregone
conclusion, but you might be surprised to learn that many truck drivers are
independent contractors who are not technically employed by any one company;
they simply contract themselves out on a job-by-job basis. In fact, there is a
growing trend in the trucking industry away from “employer-employee” and toward
“company-independent contractor” when it comes to the legal relationship of
driver and shipper.
If the driver is in fact an independent contractor, after a trucking
accident your only legal recourse is to make a claim against the driver --
usually through his or her liability insurance carrier -- and get compensation
for your injuries, vehicle damage, and other losses stemming from the accident.
But if the driver is in fact an employee of the trucking or
shipping company, then under a legal theory known as “vicarious liability,” the
company can be held liable for the accident as long as the driver was acting within
the course and scope of his or her employment at the time of the accident. That’s
not usually a tough element to establish if the driver was operating a company
vehicle when the crash occurred.
by: David Goguen, J.D.
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