Vicarious Liability in Truck Accident Cases

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Commercial trucks and tractor-trailers are some of the largest and most inherently dangerous vehicles on the road. A fully packed tractor-trailer can weigh many times more than a standard passenger vehicle and stand two to three times taller off the road surface. When truck accidents happen, they usually cause devastating injuries and substantial economic damages.

If you or a loved one recently suffered losses due to a commercial truck accident in California, you might believe that you have a clear claim for compensation. Unfortunately, determining liability for a truck accident is not always easy, and the concept of vicarious liability could come into play and complicate your legal proceedings. If you are unsure about liability for your recent truck accident in California, it is crucial to meet with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible.

What Is Vicarious Liability?

The legal concept of vicarious liability arises when one party bears liability for the actions of another. This legal statute rarely appears outside of cases involving commercial employees like truck drivers. Typically when an auto accident occurs, the driver responsible for causing the accident is liable for any resulting damages. It is up to an injured plaintiff and their attorney to prove the at-fault driver’s negligence. However, in truck accident cases, another factor for determining liability comes into play: the driver’s relationship with their employer.

Trucking companies, distributors, and all other business entities employing truck drivers must understand how vicarious liability could potentially come into play if their drivers cause accidents. Vicarious liability charges exist to ensure companies uphold reasonable and safe practices when it comes to managing their employees, especially those with inherently risky job duties like driving large commercial vehicles.

Vicarious liability comes into play if a trucking company or other employer failed to follow trucking industry regulations, failed to conduct an appropriate background check on a driver, or did not verify the driver’s credentials, qualifications, and experience as a commercial driver prior to assigning them a formal work route.

Proving Vicarious Liability and Succeeding With Your Truck Accident Claim

The legal statute of vicarious liability can actually be a boon to an injured plaintiff when it comes to their ability to recover compensation for their losses. However, it is also more difficult to prove than standard negligence. For example, proving negligence in a standard car accident case necessitates proof that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, breached that duty, and was the cause of the plaintiff’s damages.

In a vicarious liability truck accident claim, the plaintiff and their attorney must not only prove the elements of basic negligence as they would for any other traffic accident claim but also prove vicarious liability by establishing three facts:

  1. The driver in the case was acting under the control of the party charged with vicarious liability.
  2. The party charged with vicarious liability had direct control over the driver’s actions.
  3. The driver in question was acting in the scope of their work duties when the accident occurred.

The party charged with vicarious liability could be a trucking company, distribution network, truck owner, partnership with operational control over the truck, or any combination of associated parties with formal ties to the truck and/or truck driver in question.

Why Pursue Vicarious Liability?

Ultimately, if you are filing a personal injury claim against a truck driver, the scope of your potential recovery could be quite limited due to the driver’s individual financial standing. Simply put, the driver may not have enough assets and property to fully compensate for all your losses. Vicarious liability allows you to potentially implicate an employer or other party with more financial liquidity, essentially raising the ceiling of your potential recovery amount.

While it will be more difficult to prove vicarious liability than standard liability, the result is usually well worth the effort due to the additional financial recovery a successful claim can offer. For example, suppose you suffered catastrophic injuries and the truck driver responsible for your accident does not have personal auto liability coverage or anywhere close to enough financial liquidity to cover your damages. In that case, your attorney might look for room to pursue a vicarious liability claim.

A claim of vicarious liability in your truck accident claim could mean a significant difference in your final recovery. If you have recently suffered losses in a truck accident claim and believe more than one party could bear responsibility, a vicarious liability claim could be the best option for you to secure a recovery. Contact the Kreeger Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with an experienced Sacramento truck accident attorney who can help you better understand your options for legal recourse.