When Is the Trucking Company Liable for an Accident?
January 8, 2021

Can You Sue a Trucking Company?

The first party to look at closely in any semi truck crash is the driver. After all, the person who operates a vehicle is responsible for doing so safely. When commercial truck drivers fail in this duty, they may be liable for damages.

However, one of the biggest differences between a truck accident and a car accident is the number of parties that may be at fault. A trucking accident claim may be filed against multiple individuals and entities, including the company that employs the at-fault driver.

When Is a Trucking Company Liable for an Accident?

A company is subject to vicarious liability when one of its employees causes harm to someone else as a result of negligence. For the employer to be liable, the employee must be acting within the scope of his or her job duties.

So, if a truck driver is on the clock and engages in negligent behavior like the following, both the driver and the trucking company may be at fault for the subsequent accident:

In each of these cases, the trucking company did not actually commit the negligent act that resulted in the accident. However, because one of its employees was negligent, engaged in company business, and an accident occurred, the company can be liable.

Legally, this principle is known as respondeat superior (“Let the master answer”). The trucking company (i.e., “the master”) must “answer” (i.e., be held liable) for the conduct of its employees, who are required to obey the rules of the road and operate their rigs safely.

What If the Trucking Company Was Negligent?

To recover compensation in a claim against the trucking company, your lawyer will need to prove that (a) the truck driver who caused the accident was negligent and (b) the driver was an employee of the trucking company. In this case, your claim against the trucking company will proceed on the grounds of strict liability (i.e., you do not have to prove separate negligence on the part of the trucking company).

However, in many cases the negligence of the trucking company may actually be a factor in the crash. Our truck accident lawyers see this in cases where:

  • The trucking company hires drivers without the proper qualifications and training
  • The company fails to check the truck driver’s safety record before hiring
  • The trucking company fails to screen drivers for alcohol and drug use, as well as check for prior violations
  • The company pressures its drivers to violate the hours of service regulations (federal rules that limit the hours drivers can work)
  • The company fails to perform regular maintenance and repairs on the truck and/or the trailer (applicable in cases where the trucking company owns one or both parts of the vehicle)

All of these errors may increase the risk of a truck accident. However, identifying wrongdoing on the part of the trucking company can be difficult. Your truck accident lawyer will thoroughly investigate trucking company records and collect other evidence to build a strong claim on your behalf.

Employee Classification Issues in Truck Accident Claims

Some truck drivers are self-employed owner-operators. Rather than working for a trucking company, they own or lease their trucks (and sometimes the trailer, too) and contract with freight carriers to transport goods.

If you are injured in a truck accident with an independent driver, your main option for recovering compensation is filing a claim with the truck driver’s commercial truck insurance company. If the driver is not an employee of the freight carrier, the company may not be liable.

However, simply claiming that a driver was not an employee is not enough for a company to avoid liability. To establish the trucking company’s liability and preserve your right to full compensation in your truck accident claim, your lawyer will need to present evidence that the driver was an “employee” of the company for purposes of federal and other laws. Generally, this is achieved through thorough investigation of employment and other records maintained by the trucking company.  

Do I Need to Sue the Trucking Company to Recover Compensation?

Each truck accident case is different. The insurance carriers for the truck driver, the trucking company, and other liable parties may agree to a settlement. If you are satisfied with the offer, you can settle the case and avoid filing a lawsuit.

In the event that the at-fault parties do not come to a settlement agreement, however, you may need to file suit to recover the compensation you deserve. For this reason, it is crucial to work with an experienced trial attorney who can effectively present your truck accident case in court.

In court, your lawyer will be focused on making your case to the jury or the judge and obtaining a verdict that fully compensates you for your losses. During the trial, settlement negotiations may resume as well. If you receive a favorable settlement, you can choose to accept, which will end the courtroom proceedings.

Contact Our Trucking Accident Lawyers Today

Truck accident litigation is significantly more complicated than other kinds of motor vehicle accident cases. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a crash with a semi truck, it is important to work with an attorney who has extensive experience handling these complex claims.

At Studinski Law, LLC, we take on the burden of your case so you can focus on getting better. We painstakingly prepare each claim to hold negligent truck drivers, trucking companies, and other parties accountable, and fearlessly pursue full compensation on each client’s behalf.

View Our Results.

Please call (715) 343-2850 today for a free consultation. Our trucking accident lawyers handle claims throughout Wisconsin, including Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Plover, Wausau, and other areas.

Jason Studinski Injury Attorney
Free Case Evaluation
Call us at (715) 343-2850 or fill out the form below:
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.