When Is a Trucking Company Liable for a Crash?

Depending on the circumstances of your truck accident, there could be multiple liable parties: people or entities who bear responsibility for the crash and your resulting injuries. Sometimes, the trucking company itself can be held liable, too.

The general rule is that a trucking company is automatically liable (a legal doctrine called respondeat superior) for the negligent acts of its employees – provided the truck driver was acting within the scope of his/her employment. (Questions about the scope can complicated, which is why you need a lawyer.) Experienced Alabama truck accident lawyers work to prove:

  • The driver was an employee of the trucking company
  • The driver was performing an assignment for the trucking company
  • The trucking company controlled the hours the driver worked, where he/she drove, and the type of assignments they were given

In most cases, the scope question is clear. The driver is given an assignment and if the truck accident happens during the assignment, then the truck driver is responsible.

Responsibility of a trucking company if the truck driver was an independent contractor

Generally, employers are not liable for the negligent acts of independent contractors. If a truck driver is driving his own truck or for another trucking company, and the truck driver pays for the tolls, gas, and truck repairs – those facts indicate that the truck driver was an independent contractor. The determination of independent contractor versus employee status is determined by the facts – mainly the right of the trucking company to control the drivers actions. It is not determined by a statement by the truck company that the driver is an independent contractor.

In truck accident cases, the argument that a driver was an independent contractor doesn’t always shield the trucking company. Federal law 49 CFR Section 376.12(c) (1) provides that trucking companies that lease trucks from others are responsible for them:

  • “The lease shall provide that the authorized carrier lessee shall have exclusive possession, control, and use of the equipment for the duration of the lease. The lease shall further provide that the authorized carrier lessee shall assume complete responsibility for the operation of the equipment for the duration of the lease.”

So, if the leased truck has a defect, the trucking company could be held liable for failing to fix it. It also means the trucking company would be responsible for anything a driver does while operating a leased truck.

Additional reasons why a trucking company may be liable for a truck accident

Even if the trucking company is not directly liable for the actions of its truck driver (for example, if the driver wasn’t driving during the scope of its employment), the trucking can be liable for an accident for these reasons:

  • They failed to properly maintain the truck that was driven in the accident. There are federal rules that regulate how trucking companies must maintain their trucks. This includes conducting routine inspections and taking trucks off the road if they need repairs. The duty to inspect includes checking tires, steering systems, and the brakes. If the accident happened due to bald tires, for example, the trucking company may be responsible for any injuries, death, or property damage.
  • They failed to monitor the drivers hours. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates how many hours a truck driver can drive without getting rest. The regulations cover rest stops, how many hours the driver can drive continuously, and how many hours he/she can driver during a 60/70 hour week. Truck companies need to check how long their drivers have been on the road.
  • They were negligent in their hiring. Trucking companies need to check that their driver has a valid commercial driver’s license and understands how to drive the vehicle. If a company hires someone with a history of bad behavior, or who committed fraud to pass a background check, then the company is liable.

The experienced Alabama injury lawyers at Mezrano Law Firm leave no stone unturned to help you get justice after a trucking accident. We fight aggressively to hold all responsible parties accountable for your injuries or for the death of a loved one. We understand the legal and factual arguments insurance companies and defense lawyers try to use to avoid responsibility for your pain.

To speak with a strong advocate, call us at 205-206-6300 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Mobile, Montgomery, Florence, and Gadsden.

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