Who is responsible for my truck accident: the truck driver or truck company?

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Arrows pointing in different directions assigning fault for a truck accident.

Liability is much more complicated in truck accident cases than with auto accident cases. In a passenger car traffic accident, you typically only deal with the other motorist and his/her insurer. However, liability for truck accidents can extend beyond the truck driver to include numerous parties, all of which are interested in protecting themselves against liability.

For this reason, it is imperative that you speak with a Kirkland truck accident attorney as soon as possible to preserve your right to compensation: 425-399-7000.

Who is liable for my truck accident?

In most car accident cases, if the driver’s negligence causes an accident, the driver will be your liable party. However, in most cases, you will not hold the truck driver liable for your damages. If the truck driver’s negligence caused the accident, then you would typically file a claim against the trucking company, not the driver directly. This is because of a legal doctrine called respondeat superior, a law that provides that companies can be liable for their employees’ actions.

This is actually a good thing for truck accident victims because trucking company insurance policies are generally better and larger than a personal insurance policy. In other words, trucking companies have deeper pockets and you can likely recover a much fuller settlement by filing against the company.

However, this also means that you will likely be fighting an uphill battle. Trucking companies often have very large, experienced insurers and legal teams. In many cases, accident victims who take on trucking companies themselves end up jeopardizing their case or accepting far too little for their case.

Can a trucking company be directly liable for my accident?

Yes. A trucking company can be directly liable for your accident if the trucking company:

  • Forced or encouraged its drivers to stay on the road past federally-mandated hours
  • Hired a driver with a history of dangerous driving (e.g., DUIs, speeding tickets, etc.)
  • Did not suspend a driver for driving while intoxicated
  • Requiring drivers to text and drive

Are there times when a trucking company is not liable for my accident?

There are exceptions to this rule, though. If any of the following circumstances apply, then you may need to file against the truck driver rather than (or sometimes in addition to) the company:

  • Independent contractors: Respondeat superior only applies to employees, not self-employed drivers. If the truck driver that hit you was an independent contractor rather than an employee, you will need to file against the driver. (Max Meyers will investigate your case to determine whether the driver was actually an independent contractor; in some cases, trucking companies will misclassify employees to save money or deflect liability.)
  • Off duty: Employers are only liable for their employees’ actions when the employees were acting within the course and scope of employment. An employer would be liable if a driver caused an accident making a delivery, but if the driver was off the clock and had an accident while running a personal errand, then the company will not be liable.
  • Intentional: If the truck driver intentionally caused the wreck or harmed you, then the trucking company is not liable. You can file a civil claim against the driver and pursue recovery.

What do I need to establish liability?

You will need to be able to show that the trucking company or other responsible party caused the accident as a result of its carelessness or negligence.

The items you may use as evidence to prove liability depend upon the circumstances of your accident. For instance, if the driver was texting while driving, we can subpoena his/her phone records to prove negligence. If s/he fell asleep at the wheel, we can obtain his/her log books to see if s/he overstepped the legal hours of service limits or his/her drug and alcohol test to see if s/he was intoxicated.

It is important to note that trucking companies tend to “lose” or quickly destroy evidence after an accident to protect their interests. Our team at Max Meyers Law PLLC can take steps to stop the destruction of evidence, collect any necessary evidence to prove liability, and obtain maximum compensation for you.

We will also determine whether there are any potential third parties responsible for your truck accident. We will build cases against any parties involved.

For a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer in Kirkland, call Max Meyers Law PLLC today at 425-399-7000.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.