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Who is Liable Following a Trucking Accident?

Determining Liability in a Commercial Trucking Accident

It can be difficult to determine liability in a commercial trucking accident.  In many cases, a trucking company will have to take responsibility for the conduct of its employees.  Thus, if a driver was acting within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred, the company that employs the driver usually holds some responsibility.  There are limitations to this general principle, and every jurisdiction has individual statutes. It is essential to your trucking accident case that you consult a knowledgeable personal injury attorney familiar with the court where your lawsuit will be heard.

The Theory of “Respondeat Superior”

Respondeat Superior (Latin: “let the master answer”) is a legal doctrine based on the principle that an employer should be held responsible for the acts of their employee.  There is no blanket rule for this principle, and every jurisdiction may use a variation of it when determining whether to hold a company vicariously liable for their employee’s conduct.  Generally, an employee must be acting “within the scope of their employment” at the time the act occurred.  Courts will take several factors into consideration when determining whether an employee was acting within the scope of their employment to assign damages.  A court will usually consider whether the employee was conducting an activity that he or she was reasonably expected to do as a part of his or her job.

As discussed above, there are limitations to this general principle.  For instance, if the employee was acting outside the scope of their employment or if they were engaged in an illegal activity that was not reasonably foreseeable.  Another common defense is that the employee was an independent contractor and not an employee of the company for liability purposes.

Federal Regulations Regarding Trucking Companies

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the commercial trucking industry.  A trucking company that fails to follow the FMCSA’s code of regulations may be held liable for their negligent conduct.  There are strict rules regarding the maintenance of vehicles, driver rest requirements, and numerous other safety considerations that must be followed.  Failure to adhere to these guidelines can result in a significant recovery for anyone involved in an accident with one of their trucks. It is important to note that even if you were partially at fault for the accident, you might still be able to recover against the driver and the trucking company.  Contact a Trucking Accident Attorney today for more information on who should be held liable and to determine the maximum recovery available in your case.