Because of the size and mass of tractor trailers, accidents involving these monstrosities can often lead to severe injuries. If you have been injured in such a circumstance, you may want to seek compensation. Of course, the driver may not be the best source of remuneration, as they may not have the means to pay you. As an alternative, you might want to ask an attorney about the possibility of vicarious liability.
What Is Vicarious Liability?
When a truck driver, who is employed by a business, is negligent and that negligence leads to an accident, the business can, in some cases, be held liable for lost wages, medical expenses or any noneconomic damages incurred as a result of the accident. Generally speaking, truck companies own insurance policies that cover at least $1 million worth of damages, which should be enough to pay for your losses.
State to State
Of course, every state is different, so it might be a good idea to consult with an experienced truck accident attorney who understands the nuances of your state’s laws. In some states, the statutes might be more protective of the victim, whereas in other jurisdictions, the laws might bend toward the company that owned the vehicle.
Employers can be held responsible for their employees’ behavior under a legal doctrine known as respondeat superior, which in Latin means “let the Master answer.” Under the master-servant rule, as it’s sometimes called, the driver must be using the truck for employment reasons at the time of the accident in order for vicarious liability to kick in. This means that the driver must be working for the benefit of the employer, regardless of whether the driver is breaking any rules leading up to the accident. Moreover, vicarious liability only applies when it can be shown that the employee was in fact in a requisite relationship with the company. In that regard, the difference between an independent contractor and an employee bears heavily on the question of vicarious liability.
Following an Accident
If you’ve been in an accident with a truck, it’s important that you do a few simple tasks following the collision. Note: don’t do anything that could put your health at risk. The first thing you want to do is assess your injuries and those of your passengers. If anyone is in dire need of attention, you should call 911, so an ambulance can come as soon as possible. You then want to move your car to safety, after which you can exchange information with the truck driver. You should get as much information as possible, but be sure to at least obtain their name, number, insurance information and license plate number. At this point (or even prior to exchanging information) you should call the authorities. In some jurisdictions this is absolutely necessary. It can also be helpful to have a police report when pursuing compensation. If possible, you should gather evidence of the accident. You can take photos of your vehicle, the truck, any nearby objects such as a guardrail or street sign, and any skid marks that might be visible. At no point should you speak with the driver’s (or their employer’s) insurance company. They may attempt to convince you that they have your best interests in mind. Try not to fall for this.
Most importantly, you want to be sure to get medical attention right away. This is true even if you think you came out of the accident unscathed. It’s important to see a doctor for health reasons, yes, but it’s also important to get medical attention in order to help build your case for compensation. Some injuries take time to manifest. If you wait too long to see a doctor, the at-fault party’s insurance company could use that delay as ammo against you. For instance, they could argue that your delayed injuries were not in fact the result of the accident. This could greatly affect the outcome of your claim.
The above steps can be very helpful, especially considering the fact that vicarious liability can be quite complicated. That’s why it’s a good idea to retain a skilled truck accident lawyer who understands the particularities of this process. They can help you maximize your recovery.