You were in an accident with a tractor-trailer carrying a load of filled orange crates. While lying in the hospital, you realize that figuring out who should pay for your injuries will be a complicated process. Will the truck driver be responsible for your medical bills or will her employer be the one who is liable?
What Does Vicarious Liability Mean and How Does It Work?
When you try to hold someone responsible for the actions of someone else, that concept is vicarious liability. If a parent, for example, has to pay to replace a window his child broke, the parent is vicariously liable. The dad did not shatter the window himself, but someone for whom he is responsible, his child, broke the window, and the dad has to pay to fix it.
An employer can be vicariously liable for the acts of an employee in some situations. You usually have to establish that:
- The employee was negligent, and
- The employee’s negligence caused the accident and your injuries, and
- The employer was also negligent in some way that contributed to the accident.
How Can the Truck Driver’s Boss Be Liable?
Employers who put their employees on the road have a duty to keep the public safe, particularly when their employees are driving large trucks. Even though the company was not directly at fault, it can still have to pay you compensation if it failed in any of its duties related to the accident.
Let us say that you were driving on a rural highway with one lane in each direction. The truck driver hauling oranges blew right across the road from a side road, T-boning your car. You were not at fault in any way. The truck driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and never even slowed down before striking your vehicle. You sustained severe injuries.
How Will You Prove the Trucker and the Company Were Negligent?
The first thing we will do is obtain the driver’s and trucking company’s logs to see how many hours the driver had been working. If she had been working more hours than allowed by law, that fact alone could bring the employer into the realm of liability. We will also get the trucker’s driving record to see if she has a history of moving violations.
Anything that will establish a careless disregard for the safety of others will help your claim against the trucker and the employer. If we find in the trucking company’s records that multiple drivers are exceeding the driving hours limits, we can show a pattern of illegal activity that could subject the employer to punitive damages.
Are There Additional Ways the Trucking Company Can Be Liable?
Yes. If it was negligent in its hiring process, initial and ongoing training, supervision of drivers, monitoring of the truckers’ driving records, and retention of unsafe drivers, the company could be liable.
(Read our blog Is a Truck Carrier Liable for an Accident Caused by a Truck Driver for more information on ways a trucking company can be liable for accidents)
Is a Tractor Trailer Always Liable for a Crash?
No. The trucker must have done something wrong that caused the crash that resulted in your injuries. Let us change up the example.
The trucker was stopped at a red light, waiting to turn right. You were in the lane next to the truck. An oncoming car made a left turn at too high a speed, crashing into you and pushing you into the tractor-trailer. If the trucker were not at fault, the trucker would not be liable for your damages. If the truck driver is not responsible, neither is the company.
Does it Matter if the Trucker was on the Job at the Time of the Wreck?
Yes. The trucker must have been on the job at the time of the accident for the boss to be liable. If the driver was borrowing the truck to help a friend move, for example, the employer is probably not responsible, but there are exceptions to this general rule. If the boss knew the trucker was using the truck for personal reasons and allowed it, the company might have some liability if the driver negligently causes an accident.
What Kinds of Damages Can You Get for a Wreck involving Vicarious Liability?
Once you establish liability on the part of the trucker and the company, you could get compensation for the same types of damages as with any other car accident, including:
- Medical expenses, which can include bills for your initial trauma care, diagnostic testing, laboratory work, treatments, therapy, and any ongoing medical care. These expenses must be reasonable, necessary, and related to the crash injuries.
- Lost wages. If you missed hours or days from work to have treatments, procedures, or to recuperate from your injuries or medical care, the pay you missed would be part of your total damages.
- Future medical treatments. If your injuries are such that you will need future medical care, we will gather the evidence to establish these costs so that you can get fair compensation. It is best to wait until you have completed your medical treatments and healed completely, or as much as your doctors expect before we settle your case for you. In some situations, however, you will need ongoing medical care. We will work with experts to estimate the amount of your anticipated future medical expenses.
- Loss of earning potential. If you expect to have a reduction in your income because of the crash, you could receive compensation for that loss. Experts will provide calculations and projections of your future lost earnings.
- Property damage. You can recover damages for the cost to repair or replace your vehicle and contents the collision damaged.
- Pain and suffering. Getting a payout that covers your medical bills will help ease the financial pain of a crash, but it does not begin to compensate you for the trauma and physical pain of experiencing a car accident and its aftermath. For this reason, additional compensation in the form of pain and suffering damages can be part of your settlement package after a car accident.
- Loss of consortium. If you sustained significant injuries and had to endure multiple medical procedures and a long recuperative time, the accident may have caused damage to your relationship with your spouse or significant other. In this situation, you might have a claim for loss of consortium.
If you have suffered injuries from a crash that was not your fault, call the Montero Law Center at 954-767-6500 today to get your free consultation.