Can I Sue an Owner-Operator Truck Driver for My Injuries?November 9, 2023
In many cases, the truck driver is employed by the trucking company. Then, you could sue the trucking company because they are the ones who are legally responsible for the actions of their employees that were committed within the scope of their employment. The truck driver involved in the accident is not always an employee of a company. They may own their truck and are driving as an owner-operator. In that instance, they would be personally liable for their actions.
As their name implies, owner-operators both own the truck and do the driving. They may contract with other companies to meet their trucking needs. For example, FedEx almost exclusively uses owner-operators for their routes. Nationally, there are approximately 350,000 owner-operators. These truckers have an arms-length relationship with the trucking company.
Trucking companies are increasingly turning to the owner-operator model to reduce their costs and protect themselves from liability. In other cases, the owner-operator may contract directly with a customer, competing directly against the truck company. Either way, owner-operators are considered to be independent contractors.
Owner-Operators May Not Have the Same Insurance Coverage
The legal principle is the same no matter whom you are suing. You must prove that the truck driver was negligent and caused your injuries. The difference is in whom you can sue and the amount of coverage that is available. Ideally, you would want a trucking company to sue because they have more insurance coverage and the assets to pay your losses.
Federal regulations require commercial trucks to have at least $750,000 in insurance coverage. Practically, insurance companies will not write a commercial truck policy for less than $1 million. FedEx requires independent contractors to have at least $1 million in insurance. Owner-operators may not have the same level of coverage as the trucking company.
If the owner-operator does not have insurance coverage for your injuries, they would be personally liable for the uncovered damages. However, it is always challenging to collect a judgment against an individual because they do not have assets. The best you can hope is that the owner-operator may have other trucks.
You May Consider a Third-Party Lawsuit if Certain Conditions Are Met
Your lawyer would always investigate whether you still have a case against a third party. One common claim is that the company that engaged the independent operator negligently hired or retained the driver. They may not have checked the safety record to see that the driver had a history of traffic incidents. The company may not have terminated its relationship with the driver after learning about the current dangerous behavior. While these claims are uncommon, they may be a way to file a lawsuit against a company.
Alternatively, your lawyer could scrutinize the arrangement between the company and the owner-operator to determine whether the driver was an independent contractor. Just because an owner-operator is called an independent contractor does not mean they are one. The company may exert a degree of control over the driver that could qualify them as an employee for liability purposes. However, these types of cases are relatively rare.
Contact a Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyer at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton for Help With Your Case
A Baltimore truck accident lawyer at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help when you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle. Call 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.