After a Trucking Accident, Do I Sue the Driver or the Transportation Company?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that in 2016, a total of 4,440 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, which was a two-percent increase from 2015. There was also a 34-percent decrease in the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses between 2005 and 2009, followed by an increase of 28 percent between 2009 and 2016.
Because of their size and weight, big trucks can cause tremendous damage in an accident. If the worst occurs and a family is compelled to pursue a personal injury lawsuit in court, they may wonder whether they should sue the truck driver, the company he or she was driving for, or both.
When the Transportation Company Can and Can’t Be Held Liable
In most cases, it’s best to pursue claims against all defendants, because there is a good possibility that all may share in liability for the crash. A plaintiff does have to determine, however, whether the truck driver is employed by the company, or working as an independent contractor for that company.
A personal injury attorney can help determine whether the company may be held liable. In general, if the driver uses his own truck, takes care of his own repairs, and is paid per route, and if the company does not withhold taxes from payment, then the driver is most likely an independent contractor. If the company leases a truck to the driver, however, or acts in other ways like an employer, a plaintiff may have a case against them.
If the driver is an employee and if the accident took place while he or she was performing work for that company, the trucking company can likely be held liable if evidence shows they were negligent. If the driver was simply running an errand in the truck when the accident occurred, the company can argue that they aren’t responsible.
Getting Needed Compensation from Companies
The driver may have been speeding, distracted, or tired at the time of the accident, which means that he or she may share in liability for the crash. But plaintiffs stand a better chance of getting the compensation they need and deserve if they are able to sue the transportation company as well. These companies generally have more resources than an individual worker will have, and such resources can help families to manage medical expenses, lost wages, and other consequences of the crash.
There are many ways that a company can influence a crash, including the following:
- Failure to perform a background check on the driver, to make sure the person was qualified with a good driving record before hiring.
- Failure to properly monitor work hours and require rest breaks as regulated by law.
- Pushing drivers to make fast connections or to drive longer than they should.
- Failing to maintain equipment.
- Failure to properly train drivers.
- Failure to properly load the cargo, causing overloaded trucks.
The best approach for an injured person or a family is to talk with a qualified truck-driving attorney to find out which parties may be held liable. There are times when additional parties, including the maintenance crew or loading and shipping companies, may share responsibility for the crash.