When Can You Sue the Trucking Company for Causing an Accident?
If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a semi-truck, 18-wheeler, or another commercial vehicle, you may have several options when it comes to pursuing financial compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages. In many cases, you can step outside the state’s no-fault system and file a personal injury claim against the trucking company and seek compensation through its insurance provider. Trucking companies carry this coverage specifically for this purpose—but there are some instances in which the trucking company’s insurance policy may not apply.
Note that to go outside the Florida no-fault system, you must prove that your injury meets the state’s definition of a “serious injury,” meaning it results in significant disfigurement or permanent/significant limitation or impairment of a bodily function, member, system, or organ, or it results in significant total disability for at least 90 days.
In most cases, you can bring a lawsuit against a trucking company after an accident when:
- The accident was caused by a truck driver, AND the truck driver is classified as or actually is an “employee” of the trucking company
- The accident resulted from the negligent or wrongful practices/conduct of the trucking company itself (e.g., negligent hiring, failure to conduct background checks, poor truck maintenance, etc.)
- The accident occurred due to the negligent or wrongful conduct of another party for which the trucking company is legally responsible
In general, if the truck driver caused the accident, and they are classified as an “employee” of the trucking company, you can bring a claim against the trucking company. This is because employers are generally considered to be legally responsible for the conduct of their employees while those employees are working or carrying out any activities that benefit the employer. If, however, the driver is classified as an “independent contractor,” the trucking company is likely not liable for the truck driver’s conduct, meaning you may not have a claim.
Employees vs. Independent Contractors
To be classified as an independent contractor in Florida, a truck driver must meet certain strict criteria. In the most general sense, truck drivers can only be considered independent contractors if they have significant control regarding how and when they carry out their work-related duties and activities.
Often, trucking companies misclassify their drivers, whether unintentionally or in an attempt to limit their liability in the event of a crash. If you were injured in a truck accident and the trucking company is trying to dispute your claim by arguing that the truck driver was an independent contractor, it is possible that the driver has been misclassified by the trucking company.
A truck driver may be misclassified if he or she is considered an independent contractor but the trucking company:
- Controls how and when the driver carries out his or her work-related duties
- Creates a schedule or otherwise controls the driver’s work hours
- Regulates the driver’s mileage rates, load assignments, or other aspects of employment
- Tracks the driver’s location using a GPS or similar system
- Exercises significant control over the truck driver and his or her employment
If a truck driver is misclassified as an independent contractor when, in reality, he or she is an employee, the trucking company could be held liable for your accident-related damages.
There are several other instances in which the trucking company may not be liable—or wholly liable—for an accident. One common example is when the accident resulted from the negligence of a third party, meaning someone other than the truck driver or the trucking company.
Potentially liable third parties could include:
- Individuals or entities responsible for truck maintenance and/or repairs
- Cargo loaders and/or unloaders
- The manufacturer or distributor of a defective vehicle or vehicle part
- An engineer, construction company, etc. that designed or built a defective roadway
- Government/municipal agencies responsible for road maintenance
- Other negligent motorists on the road
You may not be entitled to sue the trucking company if you cannot prove that it is legally responsible for your damages. However, you could have grounds for a case against another negligent party, such as those listed above. Under Florida’s pure comparative negligence rule, you may be entitled to seek compensation even if you share some of the blame for the accident.
When to Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer
Truck accident cases are complex, and there are many factors that can affect both liability and your recovery. We strongly recommend that you reach out to an experienced truck accident attorney, like those at Joye, Nappier, Risher, & Hardin, if you or someone you love was involved in a collision with a large commercial truck or similar vehicle. Our Myrtle Beach truck accident attorneys not only understand the law, but we also know how to properly investigate claims to determine who is liable for your damages, as well as the full extent and value of your losses.
We are proud to be hometown attorneys with deep roots in the local community. Our firm serves all of Horry and Georgetown Counties, as well as the surrounding areas, providing personalized client support and counsel.