If you have been involved in a truck accident, the injuries can be significant, and the cost of recovering from them substantial. Receiving sufficient compensation is important.
Victims of truck accidents qualify for insurance payouts. But in the event of fatal injuries or lengthy rehabilitation affecting the person’s ability to work, truck driver insurance might not be sufficient. Luckily, the trucking company that employs them can often be sued.
First, Which Vehicles Are Trucks?
Legal cases refer to commercial vehicles in different ways, including:
- Commercial truck
- Delivery truck
- Refrigerated truck
- Tow truck
- Box truck
- Dump truck
- Oil truck
- Gas truck
- Big rig
Whatever it is called, a truck is almost always bigger than other vehicles, so truck accidents often cause death and traumatic injuries, such as lost limbs and paralysis. To pay medical and rehabilitation bills and make up for lost wages, receiving the right compensation for trucking accidents is essential. A personal injury claim with the help of experienced auto accident attorneys can help.
Suing the Driver’s Employer
Every commercial vehicle accident is different. An experienced personal injury attorney understands what clients are entitled to, whatever the accident’s circumstances. Here are some things to know following a truck accident.
If a truck accident occurs while a truck driver is at work for a trucking company and if he is at fault, the injured party can automatically claim damages from the employer’s insurance company. However, if injuries are serious and the costs mount, sometimes insurance doesn’t cover all the expenses.
Fortunately, if the accident happens while truck drivers are carrying out duties for employers, Georgia law recognizes employer liability, which gives the injured party another way to claim compensation. Under these circumstances, the accident falls under the doctrine of respondeat superior, which means “Let the superior answer.” In this case, the superior, or trucking company, must answer for the accident caused by its inferior or truck driver.
On the other hand, if the trucking accident happens when the driver is on a break or doing personal errands, the employer may deny legal responsibility.
The bad news is that lawyers for powerful companies often try to help their clients avoid being found financially responsible for accidents involving their commercial trucks. These lawyers know all the tricks and loopholes, so attempting to claim fair compensation from a big company without legal advice from equally experienced personal injury lawyers is difficult.
The bigger the trucking companies, the tougher their legal teams. A successful claim for compensation from a powerful company involves understanding the law and knowing how to handle attorneys who are paid handsomely to help clients avoid being liable for damages.
Are the Rules for Independent Contractors Different?
When the truck driver isn’t a company employee but an independent contractor driving his own vehicle, the rules get more complicated.
Generally speaking, hiring independent contractors allows trucking companies to avoid employer responsibilities relating to pay, time off, benefits, etc. However, state and federal regulations can help. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) sets minimum standards that anyone operating a business that uses trucks to transport goods must maintain. This has erased the liability distinction that used to exist between an employee and an independent truck owner.
In short, if Federal standards aren’t met, the company is responsible for accidents, even if the negligence of an independent contractor causes them. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the plaintiff still has to navigate teams of lawyers whose main purpose is to try to get their clients off the legal hook.
That’s where having a qualified attorney on your side who is wise to the ways of company lawyers can make things easier.
When negligence is a factor in a truck accident, the compensation for an injured person or persons can be higher.
There are many ways a truck driver can be considered negligent. They include:
- Driving under the influence
- Failure to obey traffic signals, speed limits, etc.
- Driving while distracted
- Driving without a valid license
- Driving more hours than is legal
Vicarious liability can extend to trucking companies whose drivers’ negligence leads to a traffic accident. Negligent entrustment applies to employers who turn a blind eye to driver negligence.
Employers can also be found negligent and held liable for damages in their own rights in the following circumstances:
- Poor hiring practices, including failure to properly vet drivers
- Failure to properly train new drivers
- Failure to follow truck service regulations, leading to poor truck maintenance
- Unreasonable expectations of drivers, including hours worked and distances driven
- Inexperienced cargo loaders, leading to poorly balanced loads
The rules surrounding company liability for commercial vehicle accidents are complex. Searching attorney listings for one who has experience with trucking accidents and then establishing your confidential relationship is wise even before you get the police report filed.
The team at Georgia Auto Law works only on car accident and trucking accident claims and has vast experience making sure truck companies are held liable for their drivers’ actions. We offer comprehensive legal advice to our clients, and we value our attorney-client relationship. Our legal services are available 24/7.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, call today at 404-662-4949 to see how we can help you.