Even if it is clear in a commercial truck accident that the truck driver was the reason the accident took place, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who is liable legally. There are some things to consider with a personal injury lawyer Wytheville, VA residents rely on when trying to figure out who is liable.
When is a Company Responsible for How a Driver Acts?
The main theory behind the idea of liability that would hold a company responsible for an accident caused by a truck driver is “respondeat superior”. This is a Latin term that essentially means the superior is responsible. What this means is that an employer is responsible for any actions by their employees, as long as their acts were not intentional and took place during an element of their employment. This states that the employee’s liability is to the employer, making the employer just as responsible as if they had personally committed the act by themselves. The reason for this is that it is assumed that there is going to be wrongful behavior during the lifespan of a company’s business. Because of this, the costs of this conduct should be charged to the employer as a risk of doing business. Another reasoning is that typically companies have more money than its employees and are able to therefore buy better insurance which should cover their entire company.
Independent Contractor or Employee?
If there has been an accident involving a truck driver, the truck driver will have to prove that they are an employee of a company, instead of being an independent contractor. Typically if a truck driver is an independent contractor, a company is normally not responsible for any actions of an independent contractor. When determining if someone is an employee or an independent contractor, it is based on if the employer is responsible to control the means and manner in which their work needs to be done. If the company dictates the work that needs to be done but not how the work gets done, then it is viewed as an independent contractor.
For instance, if a truck driver was hired to move a load of a product across the country, however, he used his personal truck, paid for his own gas, carried his own insurance, did not receive benefits from the company, paid for the repairs to his truck, was not trained by the company on how to drive the truck or make deliveries, and was paid based on each route, then the truck driver would most likely be considered an independent contractor.
Intentional Behavior of the Truck Driver
While it is usually assumed that the company is liable for any accidents caused by their employees, there is an exception to that rule. A company is not reliable for any intentional actions done by their employee. As stated previously, a company is only responsible when the actions of their employees are completely unintentional, so if an act was done on purpose, the company is no longer responsible. For instance, if a truck driver were to hit a car because the driver of the other vehicle was having an affair with his wife, the company would not be liable.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt for their knowledge about commercial truck accidents and personal injury cases.