If you've recently been injured in a commercial truck accident, there are a number of special considerations that can come into play when filing a personal injury claim. One issue that can present problems is determining whether the driver or the trucking company is liable for the accident. The answer depends on several factors.
Is the Driver an Independent Contractor or an Employee?
The first determination that must be made when assessing liability is whether the driver is an independent contractor or an employee. Both types of employment arrangements are common in the trucking industry.
In the simplest terms, independent contractors are people who do not have taxes taken out of their checks and receive no employee benefits. They are essentially self-employed working on a contingency basis for multiple clients. Truck drivers who are independent contractors typically have their own vehicles, pay for their own gas, and provide their own liability insurance.
A driver who is an employee typically is provided with tools and equipment, including the vehicle and insurance. He must follow specific company policies and set working hours. Generally, drivers who are employees are not allowed to work for more than one trucking company at a time.
Note that a company is not allowed to simply classify a worker as an independent contractor to avoid the responsibilities that come with having an employee. The legal definition of an independent contractor is quite specific, and there are severe penalties for businesses that purposely misclassify their workers.
Was the Driver Acting Within the Scope of Employment?
If the driver is an employee, you must determine if he was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the accident. A driver who is bringing goods from a warehouse to a vendor is likely acting within the scope of employment. However, if the driver takes off work early and is in an accident using the company's vehicle, he would not be acting within the scope of employment.
A trucking company can only be held responsible for the actions of employee drivers who are acting within the scope of their employment.
Were the Driver's Actions Intentional?
This is not often a factor, but a company is not liable for a driver's actions if he intentionally caused an accident. Accidents deliberately caused as the result of road rage would be one example where a company wouldn't be held responsible for its employee's actions on the road.
Was the Driver Intoxicated or Under the Influence?
Companies are not generally liable for the actions of employee drivers who cause an accident because they are drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs. However, a company could be liable if it knowingly hired a driver with a history of this type of grossly negligent behavior.
Were You Partially at Fault?
In Louisiana, you can still file a personal injury claim if you were partially at fault for the accident that caused your injuries. However, your settlement will be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault. For example, if you would be eligible for a $100,000 settlement if you were not at fault for the accident, you'd only receive $75,000 if you were 25% at fault. The remaining $25,000 would be assumed to be your financial responsibility.
Filing Your Personal Injury Claim
Personal injury settlements for commercial truck accidents typically include compensation for:
- Immediate emergency medical care and follow-up visits
- Anticipated future medical care related to disabling injuries from the accident
- Lost wages from the initial recovery period
- Applicable loss of future earning potential
- Pain and suffering, including both physical pain and emotional trauma related to the accident
How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help
Your attorney can determine whether the driver or the trucking company is responsible for the incident, document your damages, and negotiate for maximum compensation.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's award-winning attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of Louisiana residents who've been injured in commercial truck accidents. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal options.