Who Is Responsible After a Commercial Vehicle Accident?

Who is responsible after a commercial vehicle accident? We explain the answer here along with tips to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Red semi truck up close on highway

About 4,100 people died in large truck accidents in a single year. Over 15% of these deaths were truck occupants. Another 67% were car and passenger vehicle occupants.

Pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists accounted for another 15%. 

Were you recently in a commercial vehicle accident? You might struggle to determine who was at fault. Should you sue the trucking companies or truck driver for the crash?

Who is responsible after a commercial vehicle accident? What if multiple parties were involved in the truck crash?

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know before contacting a truck accident attorney. By learning more, you can determine the best course of action for your case.

Read on to discover what to do after a big rig accident!

Is the Company Liable for the Employee?

First, it helps to determine who was at fault for the commercial vehicle crash. Can you sue trucking companies for their driver’s negligence? 

The trucking company is responsible for their vehicles and drivers. They’re held accountable for hiring and training their teams. Improper training could lead to a commercial vehicle crash. 

The company might employ drivers who have FMCSA rule infractions on their driving records. In some cases, you could prove the company doesn’t vet or train its drivers. A trucking company might even cut corners on FMCSA hours of service limits to save money.

The company could cut corners regarding inspection requirements or necessary truck maintenance, too. 

You can hold the trucking company responsible for a traffic accident its employee caused. These instances fall under a primary theory of liability called respondeat superior. In these cases, the employer is liable for the employee’s wrongful acts.

Even if these acts were unintentional or committed under the scope of employment, the company is responsible. 

Scope of Employment

What acts fall under the scope of employment? Sometimes, determining which acts fall under the scope is difficult. But it is important for determining who is responsible after a commercial vehicle accident.

You can rely on your truck accident attorney for help.

Courts usually look at the:

  • Type of work the employee was hired for
  • Time, nature, and place of the incident
  • Intent the employee had at the time of the incident
  • Amount of time the employee spent on personal activities
  • Amount of freedom the employee had
  • Incident acts the employer expected from their employee

Let’s say a trucker driver rear-ended a vehicle while on the job. In this case, the driver was acting within the scope of employment. They were hired to make a delivery at the time. 

Was the truck driver leaving work early to make it to a doctor’s appointment? If they hit another driver in this case, their employee isn’t liable. The truck driver wasn’t acting within the scope of employment at the time of the crash. 

Is the Driver Liable?

About 500,000 truck-related accidents happen in the US every year. Many of these accidents remain unreported. Truck-related accidents cause 11% of roadside fatalities in the US.

How do you tell if the driver is liable for the big rig accident?

First, you’ll need to prove the trucker driver was an employee, not an independent driver. The company isn’t liable for any wrongful acts committed by contractors. 

The laws in each state differ. Make sure to look for a local truck accident attorney before pursuing your lawsuit. They’ll help you understand the laws and procedures relevant to South Carolina. 

Usually, the case depends on whether or not the employer had the right to control the means and manner of the employee’s work. If the employer controls the results, an independent contractor relationship is probable. 

Let’s say the truck driver owns their own truck. They likely pay for their own liability insurance and gas, too. They’ll assume the cost of repairs, receive no benefits, and receive payment for each route. 

In this case, the driver is an independent contractor. 

Intentional Acts

What if the driver’s actions were intentional? In these instances, the employer isn’t liable for intentional torts their employee commits on the job. These include kidnapping, battery, and assault. 

The driver’s actions aren’t related to the business in these cases. 

Gathering Evidence

To build a commercial vehicle accident lawsuit, you’ll need evidence of liability. The evidence you gather can prove who is legally responsible for the crash. It’s important to know what to do after a trucking accident.

First, make sure you call the police at the crash site. You’ll need the police to file an official police report. Take down the officer’s name and phone number.

Gather photo and video evidence at the crash site, too. Visual evidence can strengthen your case. 

Your commercial vehicle accident lawyer can gather data from the truck driver’s vehicle as well. They can also obtain the driver’s activity logs.

Did anyone witness the crash? Get their contact information as well.

Cases With Multiple Defendants

What if multiple parties are involved in your commercial vehicle accident? For example, a government agency or contractor might have left a roadway hazard that caused the crash. You could hold the local or state government responsible for the accident. 

Their negligent maintenance might have contributed to the big rig accident. 

Was a component of the truck faulty? Maybe a steering or coupling system issue caused the crash. You could hold the distributor or manufacturer liable. 

As a victim, you could maximize the compensation you earn by filing multiple claims. 

Trucking companies often work quickly with their legal teams and insurance companies. They’ll want to close a claim as soon as possible. They might offer a generous, quick settlement to close the claim. 

Don’t accept the first offer you receive. Don’t let the insurance adjuster trick you into anything. Instead, take the time to contact a truck accident lawyer. They’ll complete a full investigation. 

Their experienced team will make sure you don’t receive less than you deserve. Accepting a settlement right away could cost you money. You might not realize the insurance company is leaving money off the table. 

Your truck accident attorney will help you build a strong case. They’ll determine your losses, including:

  • Property damages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical bills and treatments
  • Personal injuries

With their help, you can receive the compensation you deserve. 

Who Is Responsible After a Commercial Vehicle Accident?: Make Your Case

To recap, who is responsible after a commercial vehicle crash? In most cases, you’ll hold the trucking company liable. However, you can hold other parties liable to maximize your claim. 

Need help from a truck accident lawyer? That’s what we’re here for.

Book a free consultation with our team today to get started. 

We serve the whole state of SC and have three offices in the Midlands.

Related

7 Reasons You Need a Truck Accident Lawyer

How Trucking Accidents Are Different from Car Accidents

A Step-by-Step Guide on What to Do After a Semi-Truck Accident

Types of Trucking Accidents

Common Injuries After Trucking Accidents

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