Semi-trucks are an important part of commerce in the U.S. For example, because of semi-trucks, oranges grown in Florida can reach store shelves in Minnesota. While this may be good for the nation's economy, it doesn't erase the fact that operating a semi-truck takes skill and care. Drivers must be properly licensed, well-rested and sober when driving a semi-truck. Unfortunately, sometimes a semi-truck strikes another motorist on the road, causing serious injuries or even death. When this happens, the victim or their loved ones may want to pursue a legal claim. It is important, however, to understand who may be liable for a motor vehicle accident involving a semi-truck.
While it may be understood that the driver of a semi-truck could be held liable in the event of a crash, it is also important to note that, under certain circumstances, the driver's employer may also be liable for collisions caused by the driver. This is due to the legal theory of "vicarious liability." Under this theory, the driver's employer may be held responsible for the driver's actions if there is an employer-employee relationship between the two and the accident occurred during the normal course of the driver's duties.
For example, if a semi-truck driver is drunk, they have broken the law and the trucking company may be held liable. Or, if the truck company negligently employed a driver with a poor driving history, this may be a basis for liability. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes truck drivers are employed as independent contractors, and, thus, will not have the requisite employer-employee relationship needed to hold the truck company responsible through vicarious liability.
In the end, every truck accident case is different. Those who are pursuing a personal injury lawsuit following a truck accident will want to seek the guidance needed to hold all appropriate parties responsible for the crash.