In case you are hurt in a truck accident, the trucking company may try to shift the liability to the driver. This is unfortunate because you may not recover as much from the driver as you would from the company. Fortunately, you can prove that it is the company, rather than the driver (or in addition to the driver), who is responsible by showing that:
The Driver is an Employee of the Company
One of the most important things is to prove that the driver is an employee and not an independent contractor. According to AllLaw.com, companies are generally held liable for actions of their employees, but not of their independent contractors. So what is the difference between these two kinds of workers? According to the IRS, a driver is an employee if the trucking company:
- Controls the financial aspects of his or her work – for example, it buys the tools to do the job and determines when to pay the driver.
- Has an employee-type relationship with the driver – this means it has a written, ongoing contract with the driver, provides employee benefits and expects the relationship to continue for a long time.
- Controls the driver’s behavior – that is, the company directs the driver on how to perform his or her work.
It is sometimes the case that some of these facts apply to a driver while others do not. This is why the court will have to look at the entire relationship and decide how to classify him or her. Thus, you need a competent lawyer to convince the court that this is the case.
The Company Did Not Maintain the Truck Properly
Second, you can also shift the liability to the trucking company by showing that it did not inspect, maintain or repair the truck properly. This may be relatively easy if investigators have attributed the accident to a mechanical failure because federal regulations require motor carriers to ensure that all their vehicles on the road are mechanically sound. To find out whether the truck was properly maintained, you (and your legal team) will need to scrutinize the records for dates and the nature of all past maintenance schedules.
The Company Violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
Lastly, you can also prove that the carrier is liable for the damages by showing that it violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). The FMCSRs are a list of specifications and guidelines that all commercial vehicles must adhere to.
Just like in other legal issues, ignorance is not a viable defense here because every carrier is expected to understand these regulations. Unearth a link between the accident and one or more of the FMCSRs, and you may succeed in shifting the blame away from the driver.
Determining liability of a truck accident is not a straightforward affair. There are tenets you can use to prove your case, but ultimately it is up to you to convince the court that the trucking company should be held responsible for your injuries. Don’t try it without involving an experienced injury attorney.
For more information, contact Spiegel & Barbato LLP or a similar firm.