The state of California has 5.6 million registered commercial freight vehicles,
and each of these tractor-trailers can weigh up to 80,000 lbs loaded.
If they hit a driver, they are very likely to cause serious injury or death.
Yet, for all the danger these trucks pose, there is not always a clear
path to obtaining compensation when hit by a semi-truck in California.
Injury victims may be forced to pursue litigation against several parties,
possibly including the truck driver themselves. Factors like whether the
truck driver was currently on a route, what their employment status was
and whether or not their vehicle had an equipment failure can all dictate
who could be liable for your injuries.
To parse through the possibilities of who might be at fault from a legal
perspective, consider the following information:
Independent Contractor vs. Employee
The first aspect to consider when trying to determine who holds fault for
your injuries is whether the driver of the truck was an employee or an
independent contractor (IC). Employers are generally responsible for the
actions of their employees during the course of those employees’
duties. As long as their actions could be considered work-related, any
accidents that occur during that time can make the employer liable for
IC’s, on the other hand, are typically liable for the accidents that
they cause. Since they operate independently under a contract from the
freight company or goods distributor, these IC drivers are ultimately
responsible for covering their own insurance as well as the resulting
costs of any accidents they were at-fault for.
So what qualifies someone as an IC rather than an employee? The matter
is complicated, but here are a few questions legal professionals ask as
a test of employment:
Is the driver required to conduct work in a certain way, or do they merely
have to satisfy a certain outcome?
Is the driver required to wear a certain uniform or adhere to a certain
standard of professional behavior?
Does the driver receive employment benefits, and do they have taxes withheld
from their paycheck?
Does the driver pay for their own gas, oil, tires and other equipment components?
If a mechanical issue occurs, does the driver pay for their cab’s repairs?
The answers to these questions can shed light on whether the truck driver
was an employee or whether they are operating independently.
Determining Scope of Employment When Hit by a Semi Truck in California
Another legal test that can deflect responsibility from employers is whether
the truck driver was operating within the “scope of employment”
at the time of the accident. For instance, if the truck driver was not
currently hauling goods and not calculating mileage for the sake of charging
fees, they were likely driving their cab for personal reasons. If they
cause an accident after leaving their kid’s birthday party, for
instance, they would be responsible for damages and not their employers.
However, if the truck driver was currently hauling a trailer full of goods
on an interstate and changing lanes to take an exit on their route, then
that could be easily construed as within their scope of employment. Gray
areas can arise in certain instances where the driver is on their way
to work or taking a break during a haul.
Monterey trucking accident lawyer can help decipher these gray areas and determine exactly who should face
liability for your accident costs. You can contact the Dunnion Law Firm
today to receive a free consultation regarding your truck accident case
and to potentially start filing your claim immediately.