Truck drivers keep America going in so many ways. Unfortunately, they’re often involved in some of the most devastating traffic accidents, and those accidents are often more severe than those involving passenger cars. The stats bear this out, as someone in the U.S. is hurt or killed every 15 minutes in a trucking accident. This is also a problem in the Commonwealth. In Virginia, there were nearly 2,500 crashes involving large trucks in 2019 alone. Forty-eight of those resulted in fatalities; nine of the 48 were truck drivers.
Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?
So who is responsible when a truck is involved in a motor vehicle collision caused by the truck driver’s negligence? Most would automatically say the driver, but in addition to the driver, the company who hired him/her, and the company that owns the truck could all be liable for the injured party’s damages. Multiple parties potentially being liable is a major difference between trucking accidents and passenger car accidents.
The driver is liable for the damages if their negligence caused the injury. For example, the driver would be liable in any scenario where they did not follow the applicable traffic laws, did not maintain a proper lookout, or was driving while intoxicated. In those cases, liability is pretty straightforward.
However, negligence by the driver does not mean that the driver is the only liable party. The driver’s employer may also be vicariously liable. An employer is liable for all damages caused by their employee while the employee is acting within the scope of that person’s employment. In trucking collisions, the truck driver is usually acting within the scope of their employment as they were hired to drive the truck. If the truck driver was on a personal trip or personal errand, the employer might not be liable as the driver would no longer be within their employment scope. The employee was on a “frolic of their own,” is the legal term for an employee that deviated from their employment in such a fashion that the employer would no longer be liable.
Another party that may be liable for damages caused by a truck driver’s negligence is the party that hired the driver. The party that hired the driver is not always the same as the employer of the driver. The party that hired a negligent driver may be liable under a negligent hiring theory. Negligent hiring would be applicable in a situation where a hiring company placed a driver with known propensities, or propensities which should have been discovered by reasonable investigation, in a position in which, because of the circumstances of the employment, it should have been foreseeable that the hired individual posed a threat of injury to others. A situation where a hiring company could be liable through a negligent hiring theory would be if the hiring company hired a truck driver with several prior DUIs.
If it’s determined that the driver was not negligent in causing the collision, multiple people could be responsible for the damages. For example, in a situation where there was a defect with the truck, the truck owners, manufacturers, or those who perform its maintenance could be liable. In situations where cargo on the truck caused the collision, the party who owned or loaded the truck’s cargo could be liable for the damages.
In short, trucking collisions are much different than passenger car collisions, as several parties may potentially be liable. With multiple liable parties and severe injuries, anyone injured in a collision involving a truck should consult an experienced trucking accident attorney. If you’ve been involved in a trucking accident, Curcio Law has nearly 40 years of experience in personal injury cases, including trucking accidents. We will treat each client like our most important and stand behind our firm’s reputation for honesty, integrity, and commitment throughout. Call or text us today at 703-836-3366 or contact us here for a free consultation.
Rakin Hamad joined Curcio Law as an associate in August 2018 after graduating from George Mason Law School. During law school, Rakin demonstrated his dedication to client advocacy and was a member of the trial advocacy association, the pro bono society, and the George Mason Law Review. His approach to the law mirrors the firm’s philosophy of treating each client with commitment, compassion and character. Contact Rakin at firstname.lastname@example.org.