Q: What should I do if the trucking company denies liability for the actions of its negligent truck driver?
If you were hurt in a truck accident, you want to hold the trucking company as well as the negligent truck driver responsible for compensating you because the company will have much more insurance coverage than the driver. However, it is not unusual for the trucking company to deny responsibility for its truck driver’s actions. If that is what the trucking company is telling you, you should not assume this is true. Texas’ vicarious liability law could make the company responsible unless your situation falls within a limited exceptions to this law.
What Is Vicarious Liability?
Vicarious liability is a legal principle in Texas that holds a trucking company responsible for the actions of its negligent employees—including truck drivers. It makes the trucking company liable as long as the worker was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the crash. In general, a trucker would be acting within the scope of his employment if he was working under the control and instruction of the trucking company and his actions were related to his job.
What Are Exceptions to a Truck Company’s Vicarious Liability for Its Trucker’s Negligence?
There are a few exceptions when a trucking company would not be vicariously liable for compensating you when a negligent trucker causes your injuries. These include the following:
- Independent contractor. If a truck driver is an independent contractor and not an employee, the trucking company would not be responsible for his negligent actions. However, the fact that the trucking company calls the trucker an independent contractor does not mean that he is not an employee. Employers can misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid providing workers with benefits and to try to escape liability for their actions.
- Not in scope of employment. The trucking company would not be liable for the trucker’s actions if he caused your crash when he was not performing duties within the scope of his employment. For example, if the trucker was delivering his load when he hit you, he would be acting within the scope of his job. However, if he was driving his truck to his child’s school activity when your crash occurred, this would most likely be outside the scope of his employment.
- Intentional act. Another exception to the truck company’s responsibility is if the truck driver intentionally tried to hurt you or was committing a criminal action, such as an assault and battery.
What Should You Do If the Trucking Company Denies Liability?
You should not accept the trucking company’s denial of responsibility in your case. Your first step should be to hire an experienced truck accident attorney who can determine whether the trucker was really an employee acting within the scope of his job duties and who can hold the trucking company liable for compensating you.
Attorney Steve Lee has 38 years of experience helping victims of truck accidents receive the compensation they deserve. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.