How do I determine if a truck driver or company is liable for an accident?

Categorized: Truck Accidents

How do I determine if a truck driver or company is liable for an accident?

In many cases, a trucking company is liable for the actions of its drivers, even those hired as independent contractors. In some cases, direct negligence from the trucking company may be to blame (partially or in full) for the accident.

Driver Relationship to Trucking Company

Liability for an accident depends on a couple things, like the employment relationship between the driver and company. If the truck driver was an independent contractor, then things may become a little more complicated. If the driver was operating under the trucking company’s authority, the company may be liable for the driver’s actions, including those that cause an accident.

If the company employs the driver, it is usually at fault based on the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. Literally, this means “let the master answer.” Under this policy, employers are responsible for the wrongful acts of their employees. So if the driver’s negligence was the cause of an accident, the trucking company would also be at fault.

What caused the accident?

As mentioned, the negligent actions of a truck driver can put the company at fault like when a truck driver:

  • drives through a stop light;
  • was using a cell phone at the time of the crash; or
  • was speeding.

But sometimes it’s the direct actions of the trucking company that cause an accident. For instance, if it failed to adequately train the driver or it hired an incompetent driver.

Sometimes it’s a combination of truck driver and trucking company negligence. One example is with regard to the use of a cell phone. Commercial truck drivers are banned from using handheld mobile devices that may distract them while behind the wheel. But if the trucking company allows or requires the driver to use it and it turns out to be a contributing factor in an accident, both parties would be at fault.

Another example is the hours-of-service rules which put limitations on the number of hours behind the wheel. Again, if the trucking company allows or requires truck driver go over the federally-mandated number of hours, both parties would be negligent.

Circumstances under Which a Truck Driver, Trucking Company and Others Could Be at Fault

There have also been cases where in addition to the truck driver and company held liable for injuries, another party was at fault as well; for instance, the shipping company responsible for loading the truck.

Let’s say in an effort to meet a tight deadline and get the cargo transported quickly, the shipping company cuts corners and the truck is not properly loaded. If this causes an accident, the shipper could be at fault.

The driver could also be held responsible since he/she is supposed to ensure the load is secure, which also means the trucking company is liable. Other additional parties could include a truck mechanic or a manufacturer.

Get help sorting out all of these issues related to truck accident liability. Talk to an attorney at Cordisco & Saile LLC about fault for your trucking accident. Call 215-642-2335 to schedule a consultation.

« Return to Main FAQ Listing