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Vicarious Liability in Commercial Truck Accidents

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Truck accidents are catastrophic because of the sheer size and weight of a commercial truck compared to cars and other vehicles.

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What is Vicarious Liability in a Truck Accident Case?

When a large truck hits a much smaller car the driver of the car and his passengers are often severely and permanently injured or killed. The damages caused can be very large, can last a lifetime, and worse – there may not be enough insurance on the truck to pay for all the damages the collision caused when the trucker driver is at fault.

Vicarious Liability

In order to receive a fair and just amount for your injuries and losses you may have to file a lawsuit naming everybody who is liable. In commercial cases, this would include not only the driver of truck but the commercial trucking company or other business that employed the driver, and even under certain circumstances the owner of the truck or the trailer being hauled down the highway.

Vicarious Liability Law

Although the negligent driver of the truck is primarily liable for the collision and injuries, the employer of the driver is often secondarily liable for the negligence of the employee driver. This secondary liability is called “vicarious liability” which simply means the employer or person hiring the driver is liable for the conduct of the driver acting within the scope of his or her authority or employment. According to the law, an employer (called the principal) is responsible for the actions of an employee (agent), while the employee is engaged in work related duties. Therefore, if the trucker, as an employee of a big company like Standard Oil, does something careless and causes an accident, Standard Oil would also be vicariously liable for damages.

Vicarious Liability Elements

In order to hold an employer liable, the facts of your case must contain these elements:

  • The employee was working under the employer’s control and instructions.
  • The employer had the authority to control the employee’s actions.
  • The employee’s actions were within the scope of employment.

Detour and Frolic Rule

Needless to say, the employer, trucking company or their insurance company will try and avoid responsibility for paying any damages. The law gives them this defense when the driver employee uses the company truck or other vehicle for their own purposes on what is called a “detour and frolic”. This exception simply means the employee was using the company vehicle to do something unrelated to the job.

If an employee has clocked out of work or taken a detour and is using the company vehicle to do something that’s not job-related the employer would not be liable. This would include, for instance, if a trucker was delivering a load across the country and took a detour to visit family in another state, and the accident occurred during his/ her side trip. However, this is not always cut and dry, and an experienced truck accident lawyer would need to examine the facts and circumstances to see if this was really personal business.

Other Vicarious Liability Cases

There may be others besides the employer who can be liable through vicarious liability tort law. For instance, if a trucker is an independent contractor there may be no vicarious liability as described above because there is no employer to hold liable and the company hiring the independent contractor driver has no control on the specifics of how the driver does his job.

However if the accident was caused by a defective part then the manufacturer is vicariously liable. Or maybe the trucker hired somebody to repair the truck, for instance, a brake job, and that person cut corners or made a mistake. If the accident was caused by a bad road, some states allow vicarious liability negligence to be assigned to state highway departments and officers.

Each accident is different, and in order to find out who is responsible and possibly liable for your damages under vicarious liability doctrine, you will have to do a thorough investigation. Because these investigations can be time consuming and expensive your best option to recover maximum damages is to find an experienced truck accident law firm to represent you.

Call Isaacs & Isaacs For Help

Our seasoned trucking accident attorneys have been investigating vicarious liability torts for decades. We understand the rules and know what to look for to determine who is liable, depending on the unique facts and circumstances of each case. In order to get all the facts it is crucial that you contact us as soon as possible before:

  • Evidence changes or disappears;
  • Witnesses forget what they saw; and
  • The deadline for filing your case or claim expires.

We can begin investigating the facts immediately and analyze how to recover maximum damages by finding all parties who are liable for the accident. We have a 99% success rate in recovering maximum damages for our clients who live in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.

You do not have to have money to enlist our help. We will represent you on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you don’t owe us anything unless and until we win your case. We understand that truck accidents happen 24/7 and we are on call day and night to assist you immediately. Call us now at 800-800-8888 for a free consultation with one of our trucking accident attorneys.

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