After a Truck Accident Do I Sue the Driver or the Trucking Company?

The physical and emotional trauma following a commercial truck accident can disrupt the lives of both the victim and their family members. A personal injury lawsuit can help restore some of the losses, but a key question first needs to be answered: who was liable?

The relationship between trucking companies and their drivers is complicated. Depending on the situation, either or both may be liable. The best way to find out how to proceed in your situation is to speak with a car accident lawyer.

Liability for auto accidents

Someone is legally to blame when their breach of duty caused the accident. A breach can include simple carelessness or, as is often true in the case of a commercial truck accident, a violation of a state or federal safety law.

In New York, there is an additional question to ask: even if someone is to blame, can an injured accident victim sue? New York follows a no-fault system when it comes to auto accidents.

If you are injured, your only recourse is a no-fault claim with your own carrier unless the injury is deemed “serious.” Unfortunately, truck accidents typically cause greater damage than accidents only involving passenger vehicles, so it is more likely to meet the threshold to file a liability-based personal injury lawsuit.

Accident liability for trucking companies

Truck companies may be legally to blame in a couple of ways: directly for their own actions or vicariously for the actions of their drivers.

Federal and state laws are designed to protect those on the road from the risks that large trucks pose. They limit the number of hours that a driver may drive at a time, require trucking companies to perform background checks on drivers, and specify how often trucks must be inspected and how the inspections must be documented. Because these laws are designed to prevent accidents, the company may be liable if violating them leads to an injury.

Even if it was the driver whose actions caused the crash, such as by speeding, following too closely, or falling asleep at the wheel, the company may be vicariously liable under what is known as respondeat superior. This applies if the driver’s actions were accidental, and he was acting within the course and scope of his employment. In most contexts, a company is not liable for the wrongful acts of independent contractors, but laws make trucking companies liable for drivers even if they are contractors.

When the driver is liable

For accidental driving work-related errors, the trucking company will often be responsible for the driver. If the driver’s actions were not accidental or work-related, the driver may be personally liable. It may also be that both the company and the driver were liable, such as if the driver was drunk, but the company should have known.

If a truck driver was acting intentionally to cause the accident or doing something else that was not work-related, the trucking company will likely argue that he was not acting as an employee at the time. If the judge or jury agrees, the driver rather than the company may be liable.

A finding that the company is not responsible for the driver’s actions can cause problems because recovering compensation from a trucking company is more reliable than recovering from a driver. Your attorney will explore all options and make the strongest case that protects your interests.

Common causes of truck accidents

Unfortunately, many truck accidents are caused by human error. Some of the common reasons include:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving while drowsy
  • Unsecured load
  • Failure to drive reasonably in light of weather or traffic conditions
  • Violating other traffic laws

It can take an experienced eye to spot the potential errors that contributed to the accident. The attorneys at Douglas & London understand the complex factors involved and work to hold those at fault responsible.

Why you need a lawyer

To receive fair and full compensation after a serious accident, you need to know what your claim is worth, who is at fault, why, and how to demonstrate it. This is a lot to handle, but a New York car accident attorney can take care of it all for you.

The trucking company and insurance companies are not on your side; they are only interested in saving money. When you have a skilled and determined advocate, you can level the playing field. Call Douglas & London today to discuss your case. Consultations are free and confidential.