Can I Sue a Truck Driver’s Company for My Accident Injuries in North Carolina?
People often think of vehicle accidents as happening between two cars, where one passenger vehicle is clearly at fault, and the other car was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When a driver is engaged in commercial duties, such as operating a truck, you might be wondering if you could sue the company that owns the truck (instead of or in addition to the driver) for your injuries.
When Can the Truck Driver’s Company Be Sued?
When a truck driver is an employee of a company, the driver is operating the vehicle on behalf of the company. In civil law, this means that the company can be held vicariously liable for the actions an employee takes while they are performing work-related duties. Simply put, the trucking company’s driver acts “for the company” as an employee-driver, and thus the trucker’s negligence is the trucking company’s negligence.
There are, however, some important caveats to be aware of. They include:
- The truck driver (generally) must be an employee of the trucking company, not an independent contractor. If the driver was an independent contractor, the trucking company will try to argue that it is not liable for the driver’s actions or conduct
- The driver, at the time of the collision, must have been currently engaged in work-related duties within the scope of their employment. If the driver was on a break or using the vehicle for personal use, the company will also argue that it should not be held accountable for the driver’s actions.
Even if the driver was an independent contractor or not currently operating the truck in the course of his duties, liability could still be attached to the trucking company. These are fact inquiries. If the trucking company maintains a high level of control over their driver, we can often show that the driver legally was an employee, despite their assertion that the trucker was an independent contractor. Also, if the driver was on break or on some personal errand, we can often show that the errand/diversion was still in the scope of the driver’s expected work conduct. An experienced personal injury attorney who handles truck accident cases will know how to push the company to confirm that the truck driver was employed when the crash occurred and that both the truck driver and the trucking company owe for your losses.
As noted above, the trucking company is “vicariously” liable for the truck driver’s negligence if the driver was acting as an employee. However, the trucking company also has legal and financial responsibility if the company’s careless actions led to the collision. The trucking company is independently liable (under a theory of negligence) in the following scenarios:
- The company did not thoroughly screen, train, or supervise applicants/drivers
- The company did not properly maintain the vehicles or confirm they were in working order
- The company directed or motivated employees or independent contractors to violate safety standards or laws (i.e. mandating delivery deadlines which would require speeding or driving for long hours in violation of the federal “hours of service” limitations)
Other Parties that Could be Liable for Your Injuries
In addition to determining whether the trucking company can be sued for your injuries, a skilled truck accident lawyer who handles personal injury cases will carefully evaluate all crash evidence and determine whether any other parties could be held responsible.
Other potentially liable parties include:
- Manufacturers: If the truck had a defective design or was manufactured with a defect, the company that made the truck could also be liable for the accident. Further, if the accident could be attributed to a defective part, the company that made the part (in addition to or instead of the truck manufacturer) could be liable.
- Government entities: We rely on the local, state, and federal governments to keep our roads safe. If a road has been improperly maintained or has absent or faulty signage, the government could also share legal accountability for the accident.
- Outside maintenance facilities: If the truck was improperly repaired by a garage or repair facility that is not owned by the trucking company, the facility that caused improper and dangerous repairs may share legal responsibility for victims’ claims.
- Shippers: Depending on the shipping contracts, in some cases the owner of the cargo may remain responsible as a co-employer of the truck driver. Also, we often see cases where a shipper improperly loads cargo in the trailer. If the cargo shifts during transport or is loaded in a way that makes the truck unbalanced and difficult to drive safely, the shipper may have financial responsibility to contribute toward paying truck accident injury claims.
Injured in a Trucking Accident? Contact North Carolina Truck Accident Lawyer Carl Nagle and his Commercial Vehicle Accident Team at Nagle & Associates, P.A., for Help
Any motor vehicle accident can be life-changing and catastrophic, but trucking accidents can be particularly problematic due to the size of the vehicle and the uncertainty in determining who is liable. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident caused by a truck driver, please don’t hesitate to contact our team of personal injury attorneys at (866) 815-9866 for a free consultation. We offer the lowest legal fee in the industry, Mr. Nagle is a former insurance company lawyer and a former insurance adjuster who handled truck accident claims for a large national insurance carrier, and he stands ready to help truck accident victims throughout North Carolina. From day one, we begin gathering and securing valuable crash evidence to prove truck driver fault, identify all available insurance coverage, and secure the highest possible payment for our clients’ injury claims.