After an accident with a semi-truck, you may wonder if you can file a claim against the driver or the trucking company – or perhaps both to get maximum compensation. Determining whether you can sue both parties comes down to the driver’s employment situation and insurance coverage.
Some trucking companies hire independent contractors, which means the semi-truck driver is not a direct employee of the company. In this case, you may have to file your lawsuit against the driver only. If the trucking company owns the semi-truck or they are in direct control of their driver’s day-to-day operations, you may be able to hold the company and driver liable for your injuries.
In any accident case, parties that contribute in some way to the incident must be held responsible for ensuring that the victim receives compensation. In many cases involving a passenger vehicle and a semi-truck, the driver and trucking company can both be held liable.
Do You Have a Case against Both Parties?
After your accident with a semi-truck, you will quickly find that it is hard to determine who is at fault for your injuries. There could be numerous parties responsible for the accident, and those parties may extend outside of the trucking company and the driver of the semi-truck.
Accidents involving commercial vehicles are very difficult. It is not easy for a victim to decipher who would be reasonably responsible for their injuries and financial losses. That is why it is recommended that any victim of a semi-truck accident contact a personal injury attorney, right away. An attorney can help determine which parties contributed to the accident and work toward making sure that a victim receives maximum compensation.
Determining Liability Is the First Step
The first step to holding a trucking company responsible for the actions of their drivers is to prove that the company was employing the driver at the time of the crash. That means your attorney will need to see the employment status of the driver. Some trucking companies will hire independent contractors to skirt liability in car accidents. Even if the company claims that the driver is an independent contractor, your attorney may be able to prove that the driver was treated as an employee and, therefore, the company is equally responsible for the driver’s negligence.
A company is not liable for the actions of an independent contractor. If the driver is truly an independent contractor, then you cannot hold the trucking company responsible. Some ways your attorney will investigate to show whether the driver was an employee or contractor include:
- Seeing if the driver had the right to refuse assignments
- Determining if the driver or company set work hours
- Determining whether the driver used the company’s equipment, wore a company uniform, or had to supply their own
- Checking to see if the truck driver has the right to work for other trucking companies
All four of these points can help your attorney determine the contractor status of the driver. As a rule, the less control a company has over a worker, the less likely they are to be classified as an employee.
One common defense strategy for a trucking company is to push all the blame on the truck driver and then claim that they are an independent contractor. If the trucking company is attempting to do that in your case, your attorney will look to see whether the driver is properly classified and see if they can still hold the company liable.
What If the Driver Is a Contractor?
If it is determined that the truck driver is an independent contractor, as a contractor, they must carry insurance. Therefore, you could still file an accident claim against their commercial insurance company. You would be limited by the coverage that the driver has, and the driver may not have enough coverage to handle all your damages. When this occurs, your attorney will look at any potential assets they can use to pay the remaining damages.
What about Third Parties?
Sometimes, there is a third party outside of the trucking company and driver. A third party may include a maintenance company or inspection service. If the accident was caused by the negligence of a third party, your attorney may name them in your lawsuit as well – depending on how much they contributed to the accident itself.
Do You Really Need an Attorney?
It is in your best interest to hire an injury attorney with experience handling truck accident cases. Typically, a trucking accident leads to catastrophic injuries and long-term medical expenses. Most victims of truck accidents are left permanently disabled, which means they are no longer able to work. Most likely, you already have extensive medical costs that you must deal with. An attorney not only seeks compensation for items you have paid for, but also seeks maximum compensation so that your future losses will also be covered.
One thing to keep in mind when you are suing a trucking company is that you are going up against a team of attorneys and often a large commercial insurance provider. The sole purpose of these companies is to reduce the amount of compensation they pay on accident claims in order to keep profits. There is no possible way for a victim to properly represent themselves against a team of lawyers who fight similar claims daily.
You are already recovering from your injuries, the last thing you should worry about is fighting for compensation. An attorney serves as your personal advocate. It is their job to ensure you get the compensation you deserve and that large insurance companies do not try to bully you into a lesser settlement.
Furthermore, when you hire an attorney with experience handling truck accident claims, they are more familiar with the insurance companies and defense attorneys that handled these cases.
An insurance company is more likely to settle quickly and fairly when an attorney is involved. Likewise, an attorney can ensure that you not only receive the compensation you deserve, but that your compensation covers part of their legal fees so that you do not lose your compensation to a contingency fee.
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident involving a semi-truck, now is the time to contact an injury attorney. Contact attorney, Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq., today to discuss your case. Get started by scheduling a free case evaluation. You can also request more information online.