Commercial trucking accidents differ from typical car accidents in that they involve trucking companies rather than drivers alone. Federal laws hold trucking companies responsible for most collisions involving their trucks and drivers, even if the company leases the truck and uses independent contractors. Differentiating between truck driver and company liability after a commercial truck accident in Colorado can help victims obtain compensation from the correct at-fault party or parties.
Vicarious Liability for Truck Driver Conduct
In terms of responsibility for employees, trucking companies are no different than other employers. In the past, trucking companies often managed to avoid liability for commercial truck accidents by hiring independent contractors to drive rather than employees. In 1956, Congress amended 49 C.F.R. § 376.12(c)(1) to state that all trucking companies assume responsibility for the operation of the trucks they lease. This officially removed the ability to avoid liability with the independent contractor defense.
Today, trucking companies will be vicariously liable for the actions, behaviors and conduct of their employees and independent contractors – including truck drivers. In most commercial truck accident cases, victims will not hold the individual truck driver responsible for damages. Instead, the trucking company will be vicariously liable for the misconduct of the driver. Holding the company liable rather than the individual driver can result in greater compensation.
A truck driver may cause an accident through many acts of negligence or recklessness. Any action or failure to act that falls outside the driver’s reasonable duties of care to other drivers, resulting in a collision, could point to truck driver fault. Common examples of truck driver actions that cause accidents are drunk driving, drowsy driving, distracted driving, making unsafe lane changes and failing to check blind spots.
A trucking company could also be vicariously liable for the actions of other employees, besides truck drivers. Cargo loaders, supervisors, training instructors, mechanics and dispatchers could all make mistakes that ultimately contribute to truck accidents. In these cases, the trucking company may be liable for employee errors, as long as the employee was performing job-related tasks at the time of the negligence or misconduct.
Truck Company Liability for Negligence
Some truck accident cases in Denver involve the direct negligence of the trucking company, rather than a driver or another employee. A truck company owes numerous responsibilities to the public. It must ensure its operations are reasonably safe for all involved. This means properly maintaining its fleet, training its drivers and employees, loading cargo according to federal securement laws, and obeying other Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules, such as installing electronic logging devices in trucks.
A truck company cutting corners to save time or money could cause accidents. The company may then be liable for its negligence or carelessness, owing victims – including the truck driver – compensation for their damages. The victim or his or her attorney will have to prove that a reasonable and prudent truck company would have acted differently under similar circumstances to establish negligence. Then, the lawyer must show a link between the company’s negligence and the commercial trucking accident.
If an attorney can prove the trucking company breached its duty of care, caused the wreck and that the victim suffered damages as a result, the Colorado courts may award the victim financial compensation. A victim could recover the costs of medical care, lost income, vehicle repairs, pain and suffering, and more. The truck company’s insurer may offer a settlement, or else the attorney could take the company to court. The victim could recover the compensation he or she needs to move forward. If you or a loved one were recently in a trucking accident in Denver, contact the truck accident lawyers at the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal for help.