Accidents involving commercial trucks are rarely just fender benders. Commercial trucks and 18 wheelers can cause serious damage to both you and your vehicle. To recover as much money as possible, you need to make sure you sue the right party. A commercial truck accident lawyer can help you determine if you should sue the truck driver, the trucking company, or both, and what type of compensation you may be able to get for your accident.
When You Can Sue the Truck Driver
Given that the driver of the truck was directly involved in the accident, it’s logical to assume that you would sue them. After all, it was their actions that contributed to your injuries. The accident may have even been caused by their reckless or negligent behavior.
But there’s a good chance that the truck driver will not be able to reimburse all of your expenses from a serious truck accident. Your medical bills alone may amount to much more than a single person can financially cover. Even if you go through the driver’s insurance — which truck drivers in Texas must have — you may only be able to recover some of your expenses, excluding non-pecuniary damages like pain and suffering.
To get the most financial recovery from your accident, our 18 wheeler accident lawyers in Texas often recommend suing the trucking company in addition to the driver.
When You Can Sue the Trucking Company
If the truck driver was seemingly the one at fault for your accident, it may seem strange to sue the trucking company. But in many instances you can do just that — and actually recover more damages.
Whether or not you may be able to sue the trucking company depends on whether the truck driver is considered an employee or an independent contractor of the trucking company. It also depends on whether you can prove that the company itself was negligent.
If the Driver Is an Employee
You can sue a trucking company for damages if the driver is considered an employee of the business rather than an independent contractor. A driver is considered an employee of the trucking company if the company controls the work of the employee, including what will be done and how. This can include things like schedules, hours worked, truck maintenance, and training.
If the driver is involved in an accident during their normal scope of work, the trucking company can be held liable. That’s because they are technically in charge of drivers, even though they weren’t directly involved in the accident.
However, a trucking company may not be liable for the accident if it occurred when the driver was using the truck for non-work reasons or had deviated from their schedule. In these cases, they may have been operating outside of the scope of their employment when the accident occurred.
If the Driver Is an Independent Contractor
If the driver is an independent contractor, the trucking company may not be liable for damages. That’s because independent contractors are considered to be self-employed and can provide their services elsewhere.
For instance, the truck driver may only work a few hours a week for the particular trucking company and several hours a week at other trucking companies. In this case, it may be difficult to say that one particular trucking company is responsible for the actions of the driver.
If the Trucking Company Itself Is Negligent
You may be able to sue a trucking company based on its own negligence, outside of the behavior of the driver. A commercial trucking company might be at fault in any of the following situations.
- Negligent hiring. Trucking companies have a duty to make sure that the drivers they hire can safely perform their job. If the trucking company knowingly hired a driver with many past driving violations or who isn’t qualified to operate a commercial truck, they may be held liable.
- Poor training practices. Trucking companies are also responsible for training their drivers in proper use of the equipment and the laws of the road. Failing to properly educate and train drivers can lead to driver negligence and accidents that the company may be on the hook for.
- Falsified hours-of-service logs. Driver fatigue is a common cause of trucking accidents. If the trucking company knowingly permitted falsified hours-of-service logs and the driver was in an accident during a time when they shouldn’t have been working, the trucking company may be held liable.
- Failing to maintain the trucks. Trucking companies must keep their fleets in good working condition so they are safe on the road. The trucking company can be liable if their failure to repair or maintain the truck resulted in the accident.
Because there are so many nuances to determining whether a trucking company can be sued for an accident, it’s helpful to work with a skilled commercial truck accident lawyer like those at FVF. Our team can review all the details of your case, including the truck driver’s relationship with the trucking company, to determine how much compensation you can seek and from whom.
Schedule a Free Consultation with FVF
The aftermath of an accident with a commercial truck can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t know who to sue. We can help you determine if you have a case against the trucking company so you can seek full compensation for damages like lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Contact our 18 wheeler accident lawyers in Austin, Texas, for a free consultation today.