Who’s at fault in a trucking accident — the driver, the company, or both?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration establishes many strict regulations designed to prevent deadly truck accidents from happening.
However, commercial truck companies and drivers don’t always follow the guidelines and rules. As a result, collisions between semis and cars commonly occur.
The consequences of a trucking accident
When a commercial truck and a passenger vehicle collide, the results are typically traumatic due to the weight and size of the truck compared to the smaller vehicle. The smaller passenger vehicle often receives the bulk of the damage and vehicle occupants often suffer severe or even catastrophic injuries. Sometimes, there are fatalities.
The action of the truck driver may have contributed to the collision. But even so, the driver may not be held legally responsible.
How is this possible?
Auto accident victims in Florida may decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit for monetary compensation for vehicle damages, medical expenses and lost wages that exceed what their insurance company is willing and able to pay. Under normal circumstances, the victim would file a lawsuit against the truck driver. However, when a commercial truck and driver are involved, the matter becomes more complex.
For instance, the collision might have occurred because the driver was inexcusably distracted. In this case, the fault clearly lies with the driver. But perhaps the truck suffered a mechanical failure due to the company neglecting proper maintenance protocol. In this case, the company may be liable for neglecting to follow proper maintenance protocol.
False independent contractor defense
At one time, trucking companies attempted to escape responsibility for liability when leasing trucks and truck drivers by classifying the drivers as independent contractors. However, in 1956, Congress determined the act dishonest and altered the law so companies no longer could use the circumstance as a defense.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (49 C.F. R. § 376.12(c)(1)) explain that any company leasing trucks has “exclusive possession, control and use of the trucking equipment for the duration of the lease and assumes responsibility for the operation of the equipment.”
Despite the fact that the law has been written, some attorneys continue attempting to use the old statute in court cases at times. However, a knowledgeable and experienced liability attorney quickly and easily proves the defense inaccurate and unlawful.
Truck driver’s responsibility
A trucking company may be held liable for trucking accidents if it can be demonstrated that the driver was functioning within their scope of employment at the time of the event. The laws may vary from one state to the next. The court determines the answer depending on a number of factors that include:
- The intentions of the driver
- The nature of the driver’s conduct at the place and time
- The nature of the work that the individual was hired to accomplish
- The acts the employer expected of the employee
- The leeway the employee possesses to accomplish their duties
The driver may be held responsible for the collision if they were not acting within the scope of work for which they were hired. In this case, the driver — not the trucking company — remains liable. If the factor is of importance to the case, an experienced attorney anticipates the result in advance and prepares accordingly.
Intentional acts of a driver
There are other rules that excuse trucking companies from collision liability. These statutes involve the intent of the driver. The company is not responsible for a driver who commits intentional torts that may include assault, battery or kidnapping.
Another example might involve a truck driver intentionally colliding with a secondary vehicle, enacting revenge on the driver of the other vehicle. In these cases, the company is not liable for acts committed by an employee that is not related to their job performance.
Why hire a Floria truck accident lawyer
As you can see, determining liability remains a complex process that requires the expertise of an experienced attorney if you hope to gain monetary compensation for a truck accident in Florida.