Corporate Liability in Truck Accidents – Why Sue Truck Driver’s Employer
Since trucks tend to be 20-30 times heavier than passenger vehicles, the results of getting involved in a truck accident are more serious. When you have been in an accident with a truck, you have an additional option that isn’t available in a car accident lawsuit. You can sue truck driver’s employer. Filing a lawsuit against the truck driver’s employer can give you deeper pockets to access to possibly get a better settlement.
The Driver May Be an Agent – Why Sue Truck Driver’s Employer
When a person is working for someone else, the general rule is that he or she is considered the agent of his or her employer. In other words, the actions of the truck driver are imputed to the company for which he or she works under the principles of agency law. This means that the employer could be liable for what the employee does on the job. This is the general rule, but there are some facts that may keep the rule from applying.
The Respondeat Superior Doctrine
Employers are liable for the actions of their employees while on the job. The key question when a case goes to court is what is considered to be “on the job.” “Respondeat superior” is a Latin term that means that the master is responsible for the actions of the servant. This is another way of saying that the employer is liable for their workers’ actions.
What Is On the Job?
Sometimes, a truck driver may be driving the company truck, but he or she may not truly be on the job. There are instances where drivers could be doing something on their own that is not directed by their employers. For example, an employee could be off the clock and still driving the company truck. Alternatively, a truck driver could be using work time for his or her own business. This is otherwise known as “frolic and detour.” When this happens, the employer may not be found liable for what their employees have done.
Many times, it is not always clear-cut whether the driver is on the job or engaged in company business. In these instances, an accident lawyer will try to persuade the court to look at the facts to determine what happened, including:
- The employee’s job duties
- What he or she was doing at the time of the accident
- The employee’s intent
- The time and place where the accident happened
The Case of an Independent Contractor
In order for the employer to be held liable, the person involved in the accident must be an employee of the company. One way that some truck companies find a way to escape liability is by designating their drivers as independent contractors. When this happens, the company may not be found to be “the master” that is found responsible for the actions of the driver. However, just because the driver is called an independent contractor does not mean that the court will always treat him or her as one.
Sometimes, a truck driver’s act can be so egregious that a court will not hold his or her employer responsible. This can happen when gross negligence is at issue. One way that you can hold the employer responsible is for negligent hiring. If there is something in the truck driver’s background that the company should have found when hiring that person, then the employer can be held responsible under that theory. Companies should always do background checks when hiring drivers.
Why You Want to Sue Truck Driver’s Employer
When you file a lawsuit against the individual driver, you may get a verdict in your favor but will generally only be able to collect against his or her insurance and limited assets. That will mean that you will probably have an uncollected verdict and not receive full compensation for your injuries. When you sue truck driver’s employer there is a higher amount of insurance coverage as well as company assets that can be attached to pay the judgment.
When you need assistance from an accident lawyer, contact the attorneys at RAM Law in New Brunswick or Somerville for legal assistance. We have decades of experience in helping families when they have been injured through no fault of their own. Our New Brunswick office can be reached at (732) 247-3600, and our Somerville office can be reached at (908) 448-2560.