When someone is injured in a car accident, legal liability almost always falls on the at-fault driver – unless a manufacture’s defect, such as a faulty brake system or a faulty steering wheel, was to blame for the accident. But when it comes to truck accidents, legal liability can be less obvious.
If a truck driver falls asleep at the wheel and causes a crash, or if they drive recklessly and harm innocent motorists, the first reaction of injured parties may be to sue the truck driver. Perhaps surprisingly, that’s not always how it works. In some situations, the truck driver’s employer is on the hook for the accident.
Is the Truck Driver an Employee?
Whenever we take on a truck accident case, one of our first tasks is to determine the employment status of the truck driver. Was the driver an employee or an owner-operator? If the truck driver is an employee, the trucker’s employer is usually liable for damages caused by their employee – for a few reasons.
For starters, trucking companies typically pay for higher insurance limits than individual truck drivers. As a business, sometimes a very large one, these companies understand that employees will sometimes make mistakes – that’s the nature of running a business. To protect their companies and their assets, they’ll take out substantial insurance policies to protect themselves.
But if a truck driver is an owner-operator or an independent contractor, liability is shifted to the truck driver because there is no “employer.” There can be instances, although rare, when an auto defect is to blame for the accident. A defective tire or inadequate maintenance can be the root cause of the crash. In these cases, a manufacturer or a maintenance company may be legally liable for the injured party’s damages.
In the instance of an accident with an 18-wheeler, it’s typically not only a substantial crash, but a complex legal situation as well. These types of accidents require a detailed investigation to obtain all necessary facts and answers. At Jones & Swanson, we pride ourselves in the attention to detail that we provide each of our clients’ cases – trucking accident victims included.