When is the Trucking Company Liable for the Truck Driver’s Actions?


When can a trucking company be held responsible for a truck driver’s actions? You’re not alone in this query. Imagine traveling down the highway when suddenly, a truck swerves into your lane, causing a collision. Now, you’re pondering, “Can I hold the trucking company accountable?” It’s a pertinent question, especially given the alarming statistics: in 2020, there were over 4,000 fatal accidents that involved large trucks in the United States, based on a reliable report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 

Understanding when a trucking company might be held responsible for a truck driver’s actions is crucial. When navigating the complex legal process of a truck accident claim, the decision to seek legal guidance by hiring a truck accident attorney is vital and a game-changer. 

These legal experts can dig into the details of the accident, such as whether the driver was an employee or an independent contractor, if they were operating within the scope of their employment, and whether the company failed to train or supervise the driver correctly. 

With their prowess, you can pursue the compensation you deserve and make the liable parties account for their actions. In this guide, you will discover the instances when a trucking company is held liable for any illegal actions its employee in the position of a truck driver does. Read on.

Employee vs. Independent Contractor Status

Ascertaining whether a truck driver is an employee or an independent contractor significantly influences the establishment of the trucking company’s liability for the driver’s actions. However, if the driver is an independent contractor, the company may not be liable for their actions.

Scope of Employment

Even if a truck driver is considered an employee of the trucking company, the company is only liable if the driver acted within the scope of their employment at the time of the incident. This means that if the driver was engaged in personal activities or deviated from their assigned duties, the company may not be liable for any resulting damages.

Negligent Hiring and Supervision

Trucking companies must establish that their drivers are trained, licensed, and fit. Failure to employ reasonable care in hiring and supervising drivers can result in the company being held responsible for any crushes/accidents or injuries due to the mistakes of their employees. This includes conducting background checks and drug screenings and providing adequate training and supervision.

Violations of Regulations and Standards

Trucking companies must adhere to various regulations and safety standards set forth by federal and state authorities. Failure to adhere to these regulations, such as hours-of-service regulations or vehicle maintenance requirements, can increase the company’s liability for accidents involving their drivers. According to Accurate and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, violations of safety regulations often contribute to truck crashes.

Company Policies and Procedures

Delivery man talking over phone

Trucking companies are responsible for executing and enforcing policies and procedures to stimulate safe driving practices and prevent accidents. This includes driver fatigue, distracted driving, and vehicle maintenance policies. Failure to have adequate policies or enforce existing policies can expose the company to liability for accidents caused by their drivers.

Case Studies: Examples of Trucking Company Liability

To illustrate the various factors that can determine when a trucking company is liable for a driver’s actions, let’s examine a few hypothetical case studies:

Case Study 1:

A trucking company hires a driver with a history of careless driving and multiple traffic violations. Despite this, the company must conduct a thorough background check or provide adequate training and supervision. The driver subsequently causes a severe accident due to their negligent driving behavior. The company may be liable for negligent hiring and supervision in this case.

Case Study 2:

A trucking company stops to maintain its fleet of vehicles properly, resulting in a malfunctioning brake system on one of its trucks. The driver is unaware of the issue and loses control of the truck, causing a collision. In this case, the company may be liable for vehicle maintenance negligence.

These case studies explain the importance of understanding the factors determining when a trucking company is liable for a driver’s actions. 

In conclusion, knowing the factors determining when a trucking company is liable for a driver’s actions is crucial for ensuring accountability and seeking appropriate legal recourse in a truck accident.