Collisions with trucks are some of the most dangerous accidents that a person can experience. Truck drivers and trucking companies share a number of responsibilities for protecting others on roadways from harm. When they fail in these areas, victims may consider whether to file their lawsuit against the driver or the company behind them.
If you are able, suing the trucking company is the more lucrative path. However, you won’t be able to name the trucking company in every situation. Your determination of whom to sue should begin with an identification of whether the driver is an employee in the classic sense or an independent contractor. However, regardless of this classification, you may still be able to sue the trucking company if you can show that they were negligent in the hiring, handling, or training of their employee, amongst other duties.
Your injury recovery is too important to handle on your own. The Baltimore truck accident lawyers at Bennett & Heyman offer free initial case reviews to potential clients to discuss the merits of their case and identify potential defendants. Start your journey toward justice today by calling our offices at (410) 429-7856.
Suing Trucking Companies for Crashes
One critical area of deciding whom to sue for injuries in a trucking accident is the employment status of the truck driver who caused the accident. Truck drivers may either be classified as employees or independent contractors. While you may believe that these distinctions are only relevant for tax purposes, they will actually come into play in determining whether the trucking company is liable.
Truck Driver as an Employee
In almost all situations, an injury victim may file suit against the trucking company if the driver was an employee. Rules governing the classification of an employee vary by state. However, you can typically infer that a driver is an employee if the trucking company controls the work schedule and training of the driver.
However, truck drivers are not always agents of their employer, even while behind the wheel of the truck. If the driver was using the truck for non-work purposes at the time of the accident, they were acting outside the scope of their employment. In these situations, injury victims likely will not be able to sue the trucking company for damages.
Truck Driver as an Independent Contractor
As opposed to traditional employees, independent contractors are viewed as though they were their own boss. This allows them to make their own work schedule and potentially provide services to other companies. If a truck driver does work for multiple trucking companies, that is a telling sign that they are an independent contractor. Since one specific trucking company has limited control over an independent contractor, accident victims typically cannot sue a trucking company after an accident with an independent contractor driver, even if the driver doing work for the trucking company at the time of the accident.
When Trucking Companies Are Liable for Truck Accidents
If you were injured in a collision caused by the negligent or reckless driving of a truck driver, you likely have a valid lawsuit against the driver. However, the conditions that gave rise to the accident may indicate that you also have a case against the trucking company. Trucking companies may act negligently just like drivers. These trucking companies have responsibilities to ensure that their drivers are adequately trained, screened, managed, and provided with safe equipment. If the trucking company’s negligence was directly responsible for causing the accident that left you injured, you may benefit from naming the company in your lawsuit.
Hiring and Screening Drivers
Responsibility starts for trucking companies when they hire drivers. Whether the driver is an employee or an independent contractor, the trucking company bears the duty of ensuring that they have a sufficiently clean driving history and the necessary qualifications for the job. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also requires that trucking companies conduct regular drug and alcohol screenings of their employees. Failure in any of these areas creates liability for the trucking company. For instance, if a trucking company fails to identify that a potential hire has a history of DUIs, they could be liable if their driver gets drunk and causes an accident.
Driver Training Protocols
Trucking companies must ensure that their drivers are well schooled on the rules of operating a truck on public roadways and the safety features and operation of the trucks themselves. Operating a truck is a complicated endeavor, and a company that fails to ensure that their drivers know what they are doing behind the wheel opens itself up to liability for the accidents that may result.
In a study on the effects of fatigue on commercial drivers, more than half of drivers who were asked admitted to feeling sleepy or nodding off multiple times per month. Drivers who are overscheduled or forced to meet exceedingly demanding delivery schedules may be missing out on adequate sleep that is necessary for safe operation of their vehicle.
If a truck is not functioning correctly, there’s not much that a driver can do to avoid an accident. That responsibility falls with the trucking company. In some cases, trucking companies may decide to delegate this responsibility to a third-party maintenance company that oversees the storage and inspection of the fleet. To determine who to name in your lawsuit in one of these situations, speak to your knowledgeable truck accident attorney.
Will the Driver Be Able to Pay for Your Damages in a Lawsuit?
Commercial drivers such as truck drivers are required by most states to obtain special insurance coverage that comes into play if they cause an accident. However, these insurance policies may not cover all of your damages. When available, your best bet is to file your suit against the trucking company. Talk to your truck accident lawyer about how much you could recover in damages and where you should seek that compensation through a lawsuit.
Injured in a Truck Accident? Bennett & Heyman Can Help
For a free case review with an experienced truck accident lawyer, call Bennett & Heyman today. We can be reached at our offices at (410) 429-7856.