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Company Liability in Truck Accidents

Company Liability in Truck Accidents

When you’re involved in a car accident with a passenger-sized car, truck, or SUV in South Carolina and the other driver was at-fault, typically you’ll file a claim against the at-fault driver and his or her auto insurance company will pay your damages. But, what if the at-fault driver was sitting in the driver’s seat of a semi-truck when the accident occurred? Will the driver be responsible for the accident, or will their employer step in?

In truck accident cases, “respondeat superior,” is a theory of liability that applies, which typically holds employers responsible for the accidents their drivers cause. It’s Latin for, “let the superior make answer.” Under this theory of liability, trucking companies are responsible for the wrongful acts committed by their drivers providing the acts are unintentional and accidental.

Mistakes Are a Part of Business

All businesses large and small deal with a percentage of mistakes on behalf of their employees. After all, employees are only human and we’re all prone to human error. Every business is bound to encounter wrongful conduct by its employees, whether it’s a mathematical error made by an in-house accountant, a safety-related accident dealing with a machine, a wrong quote given by a salesman, or a truck driver falling asleep at the wheel – accidents in business are inevitable, which is why employers carry insurance.

The theory behind this rule is that all businesses deal with some degree of wrongful conduct; therefore, it’s a cost of doing business. Additionally, businesses have much deeper pockets than individual employees and can afford to compensate victims for the injuries their employees accidentally cause. To shield company assets from lawsuits, employers purchase large insurance policies and have the business shoulder the costs.

Is the Truck Driver an Employee?

In any trucking accident, our first question is, “Is the truck driver an employee or an independent contractor?” We ask this because trucking companies are not usually liable for the misconduct of independent contractors. If the trucker is in fact an independent contractor, then he or she would be liable for the accident.

There is one exception to the rule about employers being liable for employed truck drivers: If the truck driver’s conduct was in fact intentional; for example, if road rage got the better of a driver and he intentionally rammed his truck into the back of a slow car, the trucker’s employer would probably not be held liable.

Contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC to schedule a consultation with a Columbia truck accident lawyer today.


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