In some truck accidents, liability can fall on the trucking company. The driver may still share some fault, but thanks to a funny-sounding legal doctrine called “respondeat superior,” truck accident victims and their families can seek damages from the company that oversees the truck involved.
“Respondeat superior,” Latin for “let the superior make answer,” is a policy based on the assumption that certain wrongful acts are bound to occur during the regular course of business. As such, the trucking company should look at the losses caused by negligence as a normal cost of business. There are a few advantages to this for the victims of these wrongful acts. One advantage is that the trucking company will likely have more assets and insurance than the individual driver, so the company is more able to take the financial hit and the victim is more likely to recover the full cost of damages caused by a truck accident.
ARE TRUCK COMPANIES ALWAYS LIABLE FOR TRUCK ACCIDENTS?
It is not always possible to hold a trucking company liable in accidents. Respondeat superior has three limits:
- The accident must occur within the scope of employment. This means that the company is only responsible if the driver was acting in official capacity when the accident happened. A driver who gets into an accident while making a delivery on the clock is within the scope of employment. A driver who is off the clock and driving home is not.
- The accident cannot be the result of an intentional act.
- The truck driver must be an employee of the trucking company, not an individual contractor.
The classifications of employee vs. independent contractor can be a little complex – we’ll get into that with a blog next week.
Matthew 5:4, “God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort!”