If your car was accidentally hit by a delivery truck, big rig, or similar commercial vehicle in Los Angeles, the driver isn’t automatically liable. This is true, even if the driver was clearly at fault and caused the accident.
In determining who is financially liable for any damage to your car or for injuries you sustained, certain requirements must be met. Let’s discuss these prerequisites.
The Company that Owns the Truck
In many cases, the company can be held responsible for a vehicular accident. The legal term for holding the company responsible is “Respondeat Superior”— Latin for “let the superior answer”. The company that owns the truck can be held liable as long as the accident occurred during the scope of the employment of the driver and the act was not intentional.
The Employee or the Contractor
Another legal requisite you should know as the injured party is whether the driver that caused the accident was an employee or independent contractor of the company. This is important because erring independent contractors can extinguish much of the company’s liability.
State laws may differ in classifying the nature of employment, but generally, it is determined by how much control the employer has in how the driver’s work must be done. If the employer has control over the result of the work, but not how the driver arrives at the result, then the driver is likely an independent contractor.
Other important factors are if the truck driver used his own truck, paid for his own gas, assumed the cost of repairs and liability insurance coverage. If the company doesn’t pay his employee benefits or deduct taxes from his paycheck or have no say in how he must drive the truck or make deliveries, the driver is liable as an independent contractor. If the opposite were true and these expenses were shouldered by the company and taxes were withheld from his paycheck, then the company would be liable.
Acting Within the Scope of Employment
Establishing that the act that caused the accident was done within the scope of employment can be complicated. For an act to be considered as such, these facts and circumstances will be scrutinized:
- Nature, time, and place of the driver’s behavior
- Driver’s intent at the time of the accident
- Type of work the driver was hired or paid to do
- Incidental tasks expected of the driver to do within reason
- Amount of freedom afforded the driver in doing their work
- Amount of time consumed in the personal activity
The time, manner, and nature of the work performed by the driver will be deciding factors in the liability. For instance, if the truck driver backed into your car while making a delivery, the employer would be liable for damages as the driver was acting “within the scope of employment.”
Let’s assume that in another case, the driver is off-duty but hits another car. This time, the company is exempted from liability because the driver was not acting “within the scope of employment.”
A good truck accident lawyer should be well-versed in ascertaining if the accident occurred within the scope of the driver’s employment.
Other Defendants and Conditions
In some cases, the employer and the truck driver won’t be the only ones that can be held liable for damages to your property or injuries to you. If in the course of the investigation, any parts of the truck, such as the brakes or tires, were found to be of poor quality (not just by wear and tear), then the parts manufacturers can be held liable as well. Other conditions, such as overloading the truck or forcing the driver to work beyond the legal working hours for truck drivers in LA, will mean more liabilities and imply a greater chance of you reaching a settlement.
To conclude, should your car be accidentally hit by a truck, the principle of Respondeat Superior usually applies. The company that owns the truck, and not its driver, will have to answer for any damage to your car and injuries you sustain. However, if the driver was an independent contractor and not an employee, the driver is at fault.
If you figure in such an accident, establishing liability and getting a settlement shouldn’t be done only by you, your insurance company, and the insurer of the other party. You deserve full compensation for any damage, injuries, and loss of income. Getting the expert help of a law firm is your best course of action.
Contact Haffner Law at 1-844-HAFFNER today for a free consultation.
(This is an attorney advertisement by Joshua Haffner)