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Determining Liability After a Trucking Accident

Is the Driver or the Company Liable in a Commercial Truck Accident?

It is not always cut and dry when trying to determine liability following a commercial truck accident. Depending on the circumstances there may be more than one party that you can file a lawsuit against after a trucking accident. Commercial trucking companies also may have multiple policies that cover them and their drivers in the event of a crash. The most important thing is to make sure that you have a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer review your case and determine who should be held liable and what the maximum possible recovery is in your case.

Holding the Trucking Company Responsible

Generally speaking, a company is responsible for the acts of its employees. Thus, it would make sense that in many cases, the trucking company should be held liable if their driver was involved in an accident. There are some obstacles to proving that a trucking company should be responsible for the actions of the trucking driver. For instance, a representative for the trucking company may argue that the driver was an independent contractor and therefore, should not be considered an employee.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the commercial trucking industry. Under 49 C.F.R 376.12, the FMCSA has set out specific leasing regulations. These regulations limit a company’s ability to release their own liability. Trucking accident claims require complex litigation. You need an experienced lawyer who will complete a thorough investigation, determining who is at fault and which parties to bring suit against.

Holding the Driver Responsible

Every jurisdiction is unique when it comes to the definition of when someone is an employee of a company for liability purposes. Once commonality amongst most statutes requires that employees be acting “within the scope of employment.” To determine if a truck driver was acting within the scope of their employment a court may look at: his or her intent; time, nature and place of their conduct; type of work and incidental acts.

A company usually will not be held liable if the employee's acts were considered intentional. For instance, if a truck driver was committing an "intentional tortious act” such as assault, false imprisonment or a battery, the trucking company will likely not be held liable for those acts. Jurisdictions across the country have limited this exception and may require that in addition to it being an intentional act committed by the employee it must also be an independent venture, not committed in the course of an assigned task, and not reasonably foreseeable.

Determining liability and who to file a claim against in a trucking accident case is complicated, requiring detailed knowledge of personal injury law and state and federal regulations. A leading trucking accident lawyer will pursue liability against every possible negligent or malicious actor.