Being in an accident with a big truck can be a traumatic and life-changing event. Once you’re able to analyze the situation and figure out your next steps, the first question you may have is, who is at fault? In most cases when you have a claim, you are dealing with the company that owns the vehicle and employs the truck driver. However, there are certain cases and circumstances where the driver can be held liable for an accident and the damages that the accident causes.
Understanding the difference between when the company and the driver is responsible will make it easier to figure out how to proceed and whether or not you will be able to get fair compensation for your injuries and losses.
Determining Driver Liability
Though rare, there are a few distinct situations in which truck drivers can be held liable for auto accidents and have to pay damages themselves or through their personal insurance policies.
Operating a Vehicle Outside the Scope of Their Job
If a driver is somehow using a truck in a way that it was not intended, it can result in the driver being liable for accident damages.
Examples of this include using the vehicle on personal time to run errands and complete personal business. For instance, driving to pay a bill while on a lunch break or driving the vehicle around while off the clock and getting into an accident are typically the fault of the driver as the company is not held responsible for what they do when off the clock.
Most trucking companies make truck drivers relinquish the vehicle when off the clock, but in some cases, such as long-distance trips and independent contracts, the driver may retain control of the vehicle during their off time, allowing them to drive the vehicle around for personal use.
Malicious Intent to Cause Harm
Truck drivers too deal with the stresses of long times on the road and having to deal with traffic and poor drivers. Though not common, there are cases where a commercial truck driver has given in to road rage and began to drive aggressively in an attempt to harm and intimidate other drivers.
If an accident is caused under these circumstances and it can be proven that the driver was intentionally driving recklessly and trying to cause harm, the driver can be held completely liable for the accident.
Under these circumstances, the trucking company is generally not held responsible because the driver was knowingly committing a harmful act while under the control of a vehicle. \
Many times companies use independent contractors who own and operate their own vehicles to make deliveries when larger trucking companies are not necessary. In these unique situations, the driver may be wholly responsible for any accident they cause because they are solely responsible for the vehicle they are operating.
These cases are a bit more cut and dry in terms of liability than other cases due to the lack of involvement of another party.
If you find yourself involved in an accident with a big truck, it’s important to contact a personal injury right away so that they can help you determine who is liable in your case and how to proceed to get you compensation for your injuries.