If you’ve been in an accident involving a large commercial truck, the first person you will likely look to for liability is the truck driver. Typically, however, truck drivers lack the financial resources necessary to fully satisfy the monetary damages you need to get your life back on track.
Depending on the circumstances, it may be a better option to pursue legal action against the driver’s employer instead.
What should accident victims know about filing a lawsuit against a trucking company? Contact our truck accident lawyer in Columbia, SC at The Louthian Law Firm to examine your situation.
What Are the Requirements to Sue a Trucking Company?
Although the truck driver may have been employed at the time of the accident, this does not automatically give the victim a green light to file a lawsuit against the trucking company. The mere existence of an employment relationship is not enough. The victim has the burden of showing that, by some act or failure to act, the trucking company is liable for his or her injuries.
This means showing all of these elements to be true:
- Duty of care: The trucking company must have been legally obligated to act in a reasonable manner under the circumstances.
- Breach: This means the company did or failed to do something that violated the duty of care and amounted to negligence.
- Causation: Next, it must be proven that the company’s breach directly led to the victim’s accident.
- Damages: Lastly, the accident must have led to the victim suffering injuries which caused him or her to incur financial losses.
Was the Truck Driver Acting As an Employee?
A critical question that must be answered is whether, at the time of the accident, the truck driver was acting in the scope of his or her employment. In other words, did the driver engage in negligent conduct while on the job or did it occur outside of the employment relationship? Courts can also use a motive or purpose evaluation. Under this standard, an act may fall within the scope of employment if it was reasonably necessary to accomplish the purpose of the employer.
It may also be necessary to determine whether the driver is an actual employee or an independent contractor. In the latter case, it might be more challenging to hold the trucking company responsible. But an attorney will review the evidence and identify any grounds, such as negligent training, that could implicate the company. As a general rule, the more control the trucking company exerts over the driver, the more likely it is that the driver is an employee and not an independent contractor.
How Might a Trucking Company Cause an Accident?
Of the elements listed above, breach of the duty of care is often the most disputed one between the victim and the defendant. Although the truck driver may bear some blame for the accident, liability can often be traced back to negligence on the part of the driver’s employer. Some examples of ways that trucking companies bear responsibility include:
- Improper maintenance: Trucks are large machines that require frequent work to keep them safe. If the company performed poor maintenance or neglected to fix damage that should have been detected, the victim may have a legal case against the company.
- Overloading the truck: While commercial trucks are designed to transport large amounts of heavy cargo, there are weight limits that must be followed. Unfortunately, many trucking companies disregard these regulations so they can maximize profits.
- Poor training and lack of experience: If a trucking company fails to adequately train its drivers, accidents become more likely. Failure to perform background checks and ensure a driver is truly as experienced as he or she claims to be is a related problem.
- Requiring drivers to unsafely operate their trucks: There are rules to how many hours truck drivers can operate their vehicles. Pushing them to drive too long, without adequate rest, or in otherwise unsafe conditions can endanger lives.
- Overlooking drug and alcohol abuse: Trucking companies should conduct regular alcohol and drug screenings on their drivers, especially if they are suspected of substance abuse. If they fail to do so, for instance by keeping poor records of which employees are screened and when, the driver may end up in a wreck.
How to Sue a Trucking Company
Having an experienced truck accident attorney is critical to making your best case for the most damages available. We work to hold all at-fault parties, including the trucking company, accountable for their actions.
It starts with investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash and identifying the various parties who may be liable. As part of our investigation, we will speak with eyewitnesses, review accident reports, and examine evidence taken from the scene such as photos and videos.
Then, we dig deeper by requesting the truck driver’s records and relevant background information about the individual. If the trucking company refuses to turn this over, it may be necessary after the lawsuit is filed to subpoena these records. Filing a lawsuit opens the door to other discovery methods such as depositions.
We will also request the truck’s event data recorder and anything else that may shed light on how exactly the wreck happened. Finally, we can consult expert witnesses such as accident reconstructionists who can explain in detail what caused the crash.
We will also examine the evidence that shows that the truck driver was acting in the scope of employment. This will be necessary in the event the trucking company tries to disavow the driver or refuses to take responsibility for the role it played in the accident.
With the evidence in hand we will approach the defendants’ insurance companies and lawyers to see if a fair settlement is possible. But if the defendants won’t negotiate in good faith we will prepare to take your case in front of a jury.
Injured in a Truck Accident in Columbia, SC? Explore Your Legal Options With Us
No one should be injured because of a trucking company’s negligent conduct. But if this has happened to you or a loved one, it’s time to get serious about your legal rights. Let the personal injury lawyers at The Louthian Law Firm review the circumstances of your accident and advise you on the next steps to take. Reach out to schedule your initial consultation with us today.