Truck Driver Negligence vs. Trucking Company Liability: Understanding Fault AllocationJune 24, 2023
When you have been injured in a truck accident, your life may be changed forever. Permanent injuries can take away the life that you had before the accident, keeping you from being able to work. At the same time, you are likely running up high medical bills to treat your injuries.
A core principle in personal injury law is that an employee is an agent of their employer as long as they act within the scope of their employment. In other words, if a truck driver is on the job, their employer assumes liability for what they do on the job. The truck driver and the trucking company are the same entity.
If the truck driver is negligent, you can sue the trucking company for your injuries. This legal theory is known as vicarious liability. Fault in truck accidents usually extends well beyond the driver.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if the truck driver were off-duty and used their truck for a personal errand, they would not be considered “on the job.”
Negligent Hiring and Supervision Claims
Negligent hiring or supervision is another legal theory to hold the trucking company accountable. The trucking company must verify and ensure their driver has the necessary supervision and training to do their job safely. Often, a plaintiff will use vicarious liability and negligent hiring in a lawsuit against the trucking company. Negligent hiring is an independent ground solely based on the trucking company’s negligence.
Truck accident injuries are almost always significant because of the size disparity between a fully-loaded truck that weighs up to 80,000 pounds and a passenger vehicle that, on average, weighs 3,000 pounds. Your lawyer will investigate your case and find the most effective way to obtain the highest possible compensation. The trucking company is often the prime defendant in a truck accident case.
Trucking Companies Will Have a High Amount of Insurance Coverage
It makes economic sense for a trucking company to invest in as much coverage as possible. Otherwise, their existence could be at risk when facing a large verdict. If the trucking company does not have enough insurance coverage, they need to use their assets to pay the judgment. Some large trucking companies like UPS and Swift have this money, while small and medium trucking companies do not.
You Would Usually Sue the Driver When They Are an Independent Contractor
In some cases, you would have to proceed against the individual driver. Some trucking companies classify their drivers as independent contractors instead of putting them on the company payroll—the trucking company they do not have to pay for employee benefits. One of the significant benefits of a truck driver being an independent contractor is that the trucking company would not be liable for the driver’s negligence.
Independent contractors will still carry at least $1 million of insurance. For example, FedEx uses independent contractors as drivers. If you were injured in a FedEx truck accident, you would likely need to sue the driver for negligence.
You May Still Be Able to Sue the Trucking Company When the Truck Driver Was Negligent
You can act against the trucking company and the independent contractor in some circumstances. The trucking company cannot fully escape all its obligations by hiring independent contractors to do the work. It may be difficult to sue the trucking company for an accident caused by an independent contractor, but it is not impossible.
First, trucking companies routinely misclassify drivers as independent contractors. If your truck accident attorney can gather evidence about the real nature of the arrangement, they may be able to persuade a court to hold the trucking company liable.
Second, a trucking company cannot hire just anyone as an independent contractor, They would have a legal obligation to vet who they hire, verifying their experience and checking the driver’s safety record.
Trucking companies have often been sued under a legal theory of negligent hiring when their independent contractor has injured someone. A trucking company must use reasonable care when selecting and hiring an independent contractor.
Speak With Our Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton if You Need Help After an Accident
If you have been injured in a truck accident, contact our Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, Lanham, and Owings Mills, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.