If you have been in a car accident that involved a commercial truck and you know the truck driver was at fault, the next step in the litigation process is determining who is legally liable for the accident. Since the driver of the commercial truck was likely in the scope of his or her employment when the accident occurred, the company employing the driver may be legally liable for the collision.
Since there will likely be an issue regarding liability, it is a good idea to hire an attorney to handle your case. Your attorney will investigate the facts of the case and decide what party or parties can be held liable for the accident you were involved in. To hire an experienced attorney, call California car accident attorney Johann Hall. You can schedule your free consultation today.
A Company Can Be Liable for the Conduct of Its Driver Under Respondeat Superior
Respondeat superior is a theory of liability that allows for a company to become liable for a car accident that was caused by their truck driving employee. Under the principle of respondeat superior, an employer becomes liable for acts committed by its agents or employees, when the act or acts were not intentional, and the act or acts were committed while the employee was within the scope of their employment. This principle holds the employer liable for wrongful acts committed by their employees, such as a truck driver.
Employee Versus Independent Contractor
One problem you may face in a personal injury lawsuit against a truck driver is that the truck driver may be an independent contractor. If the truck driver that caused the accident is an independent contractor for a company, that company typically will not be held liable for wrongful acts committed by the independent contractor.
There are several factors to consider when determining whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor. If the truck driver used his own truck, paid for his own gas, paid for his own liability insurance and was paid per route, that driver would probably be an independent contractor, not an employee and therefore, the company would not be liable.
To have a successful outcome in your case, you will need to prove that the truck driver was an employee. This is one of the many reasons why it is a good idea to hire an attorney with experience in this area to handle your case.
The Truck Driver Must Have Been Within the Scope of Their Employment
In order for the company employing the truck driver to be liable for your accident, the driver of the truck must have been acting within the scope of his or her employment. The law does not specifically define what is and is not within the scope of one’s employment.
Generally, an employee is acting within the scope of their employment if their actions are those that are typically done and expected to be done while performing their job duties. The question is whether the act committed by the employee is unexpected and unusual, which would make it unfair to punish the employer for such an act.
Examples of Scope of Employment
Because you will have to prove that the truck driver that hit you was within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred in order to hold the company liable, it is important to understand the difference between being in the scope of employment and being outside of the scope. If the truck driver that hit you was traveling on their designated route to complete a delivery, they would be considered within the scope of their employment.
Conversely, if the truck driver that hit you had just left work for the day and was traveling to a hockey game, they would most likely be considered outside the scope of their employment. In the second example, even if the truck driver was driving to the game in the company truck, the company should not be liable. Under these circumstances, you can sue the driver personally. Additionally, if the facts indicate that the truck driver acted intentionally when they hit your vehicle, the company they work for would not be liable as companies are generally not liable for intentional acts committed by their agents or employees.
When you have been injured in a car accident that was caused by a truck driver driving a company truck, figuring out who is liable depends on a number of factors. For this reason, consider hiring an attorney to handle your case. Contact car accident attorney Johann Hall today at (707) 360-8717 or fill out our online contact form.