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Who Is Liable in a Semi-Truck Crash, the Driver or the Company?

February 19, 2021

If you or a loved one was recently involved in a crash with an 18-wheeler, you know there’s an overwhelming number of things to do after the accident. You’re trying to focus on your recovery, but you may be facing sky-high medical bills as well as expensive bills to repair or replace your vehicle.

Statistics show that truck crashes are extremely dangerous. According to the National Safety Council, whenever a truck crash occurs, usually an occupant of another vehicle is either injured or killed. The latest statistics from 2018 show that 3,525 people in other vehicles were killed in a truck crash, while 108,000 were injured.

After an accident with a semi-truck, you might assume that the trucking company should be held responsible for damages. The truck driver works for the company, after all, and aren’t companies responsible for their workers? Well, the answer to that question can be complicated. Keep reading to learn how determinations are made as to who is liable after a semi-truck crash.

What Determines Liability After a Semi-Truck Crash?

It may seem obvious that when a semi-truck crash occurs, the truck driver or the trucking company could be held liable. However, it all depends on what happened, and why the driver crashed into you. Truck crashes are complex cases, and there may potentially be multiple liable parties. Potential liable parties include:

  • The truck driver
  • The trucking company
  • The company or companies responsible for repairing and maintaining the truck
  • Whoever loaded the cargo into the truck
  • The manufacturer of the truck’s parts and components

As you can see, this is a long list, and some or all of these parties might be named in a potential lawsuit.

It may seem obvious that when a semi-truck crash occurs, the truck driver or the trucking company could be held liable. However, it all depends on what happened, and why the driver crashed into you. Truck crashes are complex cases, and there may potentially be multiple liable parties.

Let’s see one example of how complicated it can be to try to assign fault in a trucking accident. Let’s say that the driver was texting while driving. That’s an example of distracted driving, which would make the crash their fault. But perhaps the trucking company didn’t properly train the driver, or they failed to maintain the vehicle and the brakes stopped working when the driver crashed into you. The company then would bear at least some of the blame. What if the truck itself had tires that popped too easily? Then, the maker or the manufacturer could potentially be held liable.

Related: What Every Crash Victim Needs to Know About Truck Technology

When the Company is Responsible

The relationship between a company and an employee driving a company truck is covered by a legal doctrine called respondeat superior (Latin for “let the master answer”), which says that employers are legally responsible for their employees’ actions while the employees are acting within the scope of their employment.

It can be tough for a court to determine whether the employee was acting “within the scope of employment” at the time of the wreck. Generally, the factors the court consider include:

  • The employee’s intent
  • The nature, time, and place of the employee’s conduct
  • The type of work the employee was hired to do
  • The amount of freedom the employee has to fulfill their job duties
  • The incidental acts the employer should reasonably expect the employee to do

If the truck driver didn’t act within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident, the court may decide that the trucking company isn’t liable for the wreck.

When the Employee is Responsible

There are situations where a company’s insurance won’t cover a driver who causes an accident. If a driver is committing a crime while driving a company vehicle, the employer may refuse to step in to shield the employee from third-party lawsuits. This can include driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

An investigation will need to be done to see who is at fault, and whether you should file a lawsuit against one or more parties.

Proving Fault in a Semi-Truck Crash

If you want to evaluate your options for a lawsuit after a semi-truck accident, it’s important to call a personal injury lawyer who has experience with truck crashes. They could look at your proof to determine who was at fault. Proof could include the police record, your medical record, footage of the crash, pictures you took of the crash and of your injuries, and witness statements. They can also examine maintenance and employee records, driver’s log books, and the driver’s black box.

If a lawyer cannot prove it with the evidence provided, then they could call in an accident reconstruction expert who will be able to analyze the crash and possibly determine who was at fault.

Related: Injured in a Wreck? Make Sure You Get the Trucker’s Logbooks

What to Do If You’re in a Crash

If you get into a crash with a semi-truck, then you need to collect evidence at the scene including photographs and witness statements. Get the driver’s name, contact information, the name of their company, and their insurance information. Then, call the police and go to the hospital for treatment.

If the truck driver’s company or their insurance provider calls you to work out a settlement, do not accept it. It’s going to be too low and, if you accept it, you won’t be able to pursue a higher, more suitable settlement down the line. Instead, contact a personal injury lawyer.

Contact Our Team of Truck Accident Lawyers Today

Our law firm has offices in Mobile, Daphne, Foley, and Montgomery, Alabama, as well as in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Our lawyers are ready to handle a wide range of personal injury cases, including car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, and more.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, please contact our team at 251-888-8888 or complete our online form.  We will listen to your story, review all the details of your case, and give you the expert legal advice you need to rebuild your life after a serious motor vehicle crash.

References

National Safety Council. (n.d.) Large Trucks. Injury Facts. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/road-users/large-trucks/#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20injuries%20in,non%2Doccupants%20(2%25)

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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