Can I file a claim against a company if their drivers caused my accident?

If you have been involved in a car accident involving a commercial trucking vehicle, you could be facing some serious and costly damages. You have two choices in these situations: go after the driver for compensation or for the company.

You obviously want payment and the likelihood that the driver will have enough financial resources to pay your damages is small, so your best bet is to sue the company hiring the driver.

We have asked an attorney, Alaina Sullivan. Here's how she laid out all the details:

The Danger of the Trucking Industry

When a semi-truck is involved in a car accident, the damages that occur can be deadly. With the number of commercial truck drivers on the road every day, crossing the country, the statistical possibilities for accidents to happen are high. Add dangerous road conditions, weather and general driver fatigue, and those odds are increased even more.

With the damage possibilities being so high, the costs are high as well. The question is, who pays the damages?

Vicarious Liability

An employer holds liability for the conduct of an employee or subordinate due to the relationship between the parties. It does not matter whether the employer participated in the act. All that matters is the employee is acting as an agent on behalf of his employer.

A Lawyer Explains Employer Liability in Auto Accidents

Respondeat Superior

Your typical situation would be when a person is hurt in a car accident by a truck driver working for another company. The person injured would sue either the driver or the company hiring the driver. Which person do you think would have more resources from which to collect?

This theory is also called respondeat superior. It means that the employer can be held responsible for the employee while performing duties for the employer at the time the negligence occurred.

Respondeat superior literally means “let the master answer.” It means the “master,” a.k.a. the employer, is liable for the employee’s negligence, so long as the actions happened within the scope of the employee’s employment.

Independent Contractors

Many times, trucking companies will hire their truck drivers as independent contractors. They do this to avoid liability since the doctrine of respondeat superior only applies in employment situations, not company and independent contractor.

However, this situation does not mean all hope is lost.

Normally in a normal independent contractor situation, the driver is the one held liable through his liability insurance carrier and not the actual company. That means the driver is the individual you would sue for any damages.

Important Factors to Consider

However, nothing is black and white. Even if the driver is an independent contractor, the company can still be held liable for that driver’s negligence. One factor to consider his whether the trucking company still maintains any right to control power over the driver’s work?

If the driver is required to use the company’s routes, wear its uniform, or conform to the company’s standards, classifying the driver as an independent contractor can prove to be difficult. If the driver is contracting with other trucking companies and has the control over which jobs he accepts, then that driver could be considered more of an independent contractor than a pseudo-employee.

Contact an attorney today

A licensed personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case and determine if you have a claim against the other party’s insurance company. For the best chance of receiving the compensation you need to pay for medical bills, auto body bills, and pain and suffering, you should speak with a personal injury attorney in your area today.