Can a Trucking Company Be Held Liable for Truck Accidents?

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Liability in a truck accident depends on several interconnected issues. The liable parties will become clear as you consult with your experienced truck accident attorney to examine these issues.

Who Does the Driver Work for?

The truck driver is either an independent contractor or an employee of the trucking company he or she was driving for at the time of the accident. This distinction is important because, generally, the company will not be liable for the acts of the independent contractor driver. In Florida, an independent contractor must meet four of the following criteria:

  • Maintains a separate business with their own equipment.
  • Holds their own Tax ID number unless acting as a sole proprietor.
  • Receives compensation for work performed, which is paid to a business.
  • Has one or more bank accounts solely for business purposes.
  • Performs work for entities other than the trucking company.
  • Receives compensation on a competitive bid or task basis as defined by the agreement.

If the driver does not meet four of these, the driver can still be an independent contractor if the driver meets certain other similar tests. Generally, if the driver is an independent contractor, the trucking company will not be liable for the driver’s acts.

The Acts of an Agent

Employees are agents of their employers, and,  under the law of agency, an employer can be held liable for the acts of their employees if the actions were in the scope of the employee’s employment. Factors in determining whether an act was within the scope include:

  • Employee’s intent at the time of the accident.
  • Nature, time, and place of the conduct.
  • Type of work the employee does.
  • Reasonably foreseeable incidental acts by the employee.
  • Amount of freedom employee has in performing duties.
  • Amount of time consumed in employee personal activities.

Applying these standards will tend to answer the question of liability. If the truck driver were hired to make deliveries on weekdays and hit you while making a weekday delivery, the company would likely be liable. On the other hand, if the driver stopped at a bakery to pick up his child’s birthday cake, the driver was probably on a “frolic and detour,” and the company would not be liable.

What Does Frolic and Detour Mean?

A frolic or detour is any activity unrelated to employment that an employee was not hired to perform. In Florida, a detour is shorter and may still be within the scope of employment. A frolic is longer and utterly unrelated to the employment, in which case there is no employer liability.

What Does Respondeat Superior Mean?

Respondeat superior is the Latin phrase for a legal doctrine that says, in general, a principal is responsible for the actions of the principal’s agents. That is why companies are liable for the acts of their employees.

Can I Collect from All of the Potentially Liable Parties?

Yes, the parties can each be wholly or partially liable, although generally, you cannot collect more than the actual damages awarded. Having multiple defendants can, however, make settlements more complicated to achieve.

Call Us to Speak to a Florida Truck Accident Attorney Today!

Eric Stevenson and Chris Klotz have long concentrated their practice in handling truck accident cases in Florida. Call 850-706-4538 in Pensacola to speak with an attorney about your truck accident or injury today. Contact Stevenson Klotz Injury Lawyers for help with your truck accident.

 

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