Most truck accident victims have been torn between suing the truck driver or the trucking company. If you are not careful enough, you can fail to receive the compensation that you deserve, especially when you're unable to file claims within the two-year deadline provided by Nevada's injury claim statute of limitation.
It's recommendable to hire a personal injury attorney if you are unsure whether to sue the driver or trucking company once you are involved in a truck accident. At the Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we are committed to providing the best legal services for anyone filing a personal injury claim after a truck accident.
When You Should Sue a Driver After a Truck Accident
A truck driver can be held liable for damages incurred in a truck accident if the accident happens due to negligence and working outside the scope of their job duties. Let's have a closer look at these two aspects.
Truck Driver's Negligence that Leads to Truck Accidents
Certain types of truckers' errors can cause truck crashes and injuries that result in driver's liability in negligent actions. Below are the typical negligent actions that can put truckers liable for damages in a truck accident.
Driving Too Closely
Driving too closely to another vehicle can easily cause a truck accident. Trucks need a longer distance to come to a stop, and this is impossible if the truck is following another vehicle too closely. Some of the factors that can make a trucker drive too closely to another vehicle include falling asleep, driving too fast to cover lost time, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A driver can also cause a rear-end collision if the truck has too much weight load, which the truck cannot sustain while coming to an emergency stop.
In most cases, truckers drive too closely to vehicles on their front while on a freeway. The speed limit on freeways is relatively high, making it hard for a truck to come to a stop once the vehicle in front of them makes an emergency stop.
Poor Left Turning
Large trucks like big-rigs, tractor-trailers, and 18-wheelers require a larger room than smaller vehicles to make a turn. Truckers have been trained to maneuver left-turns safely while turning these large trucks. For instance, a tractor-trailer requires a great deal of time to turn appropriately. Therefore, if the trucker fails to consider the speed and proximity of oncoming traffic before making a left turn, he or she can cause a collision with the oncoming vehicle resulting in liability for the injuries and deaths incurred.
Apart from that, a truck can cause an accident in a left turn if other vehicles pass under the trailer when it is not sufficiently visible. That's why it's recommendable to outfit trucks with reflective tape, lights, and reflectors that are sufficient to make them visible to oncoming traffic.
Stopping A Truck on a Roadway or Shoulder
Fatigued truckers might be tempted to pull onto a highway shoulder or to the side rather than exiting the highway. If drivers decide to stop at these locations, they have to place warning markers behind their trucks to warn other drivers that they have stopped. Failure to use these markers can have other vehicles run on the stopped trucks. This situation puts the truckers liable for the injuries and deaths that result from their negligent actions.
Improper Loading of the Truck
An improperly loaded cargo can cause injuries and death to other road users if it falls off the truck. An accident can also occur when the improperly loaded cargo shifts and causes the truck to jack-knife or overturn. Any injuries and death that result from this put the driver liable for the damages that occur.
Fatigued, inattentive, or unqualified truckers can often cause serious accidents, especially when the truckers fail to signal when changing lanes. Other traffic violations include:
Going through traffic lights
Violating speed limits
Failing to slow when there are unsafe road conditions
These violations are usually referred to as negligence per se and can result in the driver's liability for the injuries and deaths related to the violation.
Driving While Fatigued
Truckers should adhere to their hours of driving regulations to prevent being fatigued. They should drive for specific distances and take breaks and rests for specific times and intervals. Violating these regulations constitutes negligent actions and can cause an accident through inattentiveness, fatigue, and falling asleep at the wheel. If a trucker causes injuries or death due to driving while tired, he or she will be held liable for the damages that result.
Accidents Caused by Working Outside the Scope of Their Job Duties
There are specific requirements that truckers must meet while on duty. Failure to adhere to these requirements puts the truckers at risk of causing an accident. For instance, if a trucker stops at a bar during delivery, drinks, and drives, and then causes an accident, this means that he or she is working outside the scope of his job duties.
Going to a bar and having a drink is not part of the description of the trucker's duties, and this kind of negligent action is probably forbidden in their contract with the trucking company. Therefore, the driver is responsible for the accident and has to compensate the victims.
In another example, if a trucker stops to visit a family member en route to their destination, takes too long, and has to drive at night to make up for the lost time, the driver is working outside the scope of their job duties. The trucker might fall asleep behind the wheel, leading to an accident.
The driver will be responsible for the injuries and death incurred due to their drowsy driving since they are expected to be sleeping rather than driving at night. The driver probably had adequate time to make the delivery, but their mismanagement of time made them cause an accident.
When the court is determining what entails "working with the scope of employment," there are specific aspects that it has to look into. These aspects are as follows:
The intention of the trucker at the time of the accident
The nature, time, and place of the trucker's conduct
The type of work that trucking company hired the trucker to do
Incidental actions that the trucking company would reasonably expect the trucker to do
The amount of freedom allowed to the trucker while performing his or her duties
The amount of time consumed by the trucker in his or her activity
For instance, if a trucker rear-ends a car while making a delivery, the trucking company would probably be liable for the damages resulting since the trucker was acting within the scope of employment. However, the victims must consider whether the trucker caused the rear-end collision due to drowsy driving or drunk driving before holding the trucking company liable for damages.
Consequently, if a trucker leaves work, goes to watch a basketball match, and hits another car outside the stadium, he or she should be liable for the damages that result since the action was not within the scope of employment.
Distinguishing Trucking Companies Employee and Independent Contractor when Holding a Truck Driver Liable for Your Damages
Trucking companies have often raised the legal defense that they only own a truck that causes the accident. Still, the driver is an independent contractor, meaning that they aren't liable for the victims' damages. That's why you should be able to distinguish between an independent contractor and the trucking companies' employees before you decide to file a personal injury claim.
An independent contractor is a driver in charge of his work schedule, has self-employment insurance, health insurance, liability insurance, and pays his or her taxes. Independent contractors might also own rigs that they are hired to carry other people's trailers.
Particular factors help determine whether a specific truck driver is an independent contractor or an employee of a trucking company. The court usually applies these factors on a case-by-case basis. However, some gray areas can point in one way, and another factor points in the opposite direction. Below are some of the factors that the court usually looks into while making their decision:
The trucking company right to control the details of the trucker's work performance (whether the rights are exercised or not)
Whether the driver sets his or her work hours or not
Whether the trucker can decline specific jobs or loads. An independent contractor has the freedom to decline or accept specific jobs or loads, but employees are obliged to accept any load or job offered by their trucking company.
Whether the trucking company establishes the routes
How the trucker is paid, whether weekly, hourly, by the mile, or percentage of the gross revenue.
Whether the trucker can contract with other trucking companies. Independent contractors have the independence to contract with other companies, whereas employees are restricted to their employees.
Whether the trucker must wear a uniform. Trucking companies' employee usually adhere to a strict code of conduct, including wearing a uniform that identifies them as employees of the company that they work for
Whether the driver should adhere to company standards or attend safety meetings as required by the company. Independent contractors might have to adhere to these requirements as part of fulfilling the requirements of their contracts.
Whether the trucker has to return specific trucking equipment to the company or can keep it and take it to his home or wherever he chooses
The specifics of the terms of the contract between the driver and trucking company
Based on the requirements above, specific aspects can make a trucking company liable for an accident, whereas the perpetrator is an independent contractor. For instance, if an independent trucker has to adhere to a trucking company's requirements, therefore he is working within the scope of employment.
Therefore, as long as the accident occurred within the scope of the trucking company's employment requirements, the trucking company should be liable for the injuries and deaths that result. In other words, the driver's actions proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries, meaning that he is directly liable.
Consequently, an employee of a trucking company can be held liable for the accident if the accident occurs outside his employment regulations as described above.
Please note, Under the 49CRF390.5 regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, trucking companies should refer independent contractors as their employees while driving their trucks interstate. Interstate means that the truckers are driving from one state to another. However, for trucking companies working intrastate, from one city to another in the same state, the federal regulations do not apply. In those instances, Nevada laws are definitive and helpful.
When You Should Sue a Trucking Company after a Truck Accident
Similar to truckers, trucking companies can be liable for an accident due to their negligence. Commercial trucking companies should adhere to safety standards and practices, maintain their fleet of vehicles, and hire competent drivers. Since they profit directly from their drivers and vehicles, they have a higher duty of care when protecting other road users.
Unfortunately, most trucking companies are more interested in maximizing their profits than road safety, opting to cut corners to reduce their costs. There are several types of trucking company negligence proximal to the thousands of injuries and deaths occurring every year. This includes:
Laxity in the Hiring Process
Well-established trucking companies need several drivers to cover their shift. Although strict guidelines dictate drivers' qualifications and certifications, some companies hire unqualified drivers to meet their demands. Untrained drivers cannot operate and maneuver fully-loaded trailers appropriately, placing themselves and the people around them at risk. Other forms of negligence related to the hiring process include failure to conduct enough background checks, which results in hiring drivers with known traffic violations or expired commercial driving licenses.
Breaking Hours of Trucking Services Laws
Due to the high number of accidents caused by drowsy driving, the federal government has set regulations that control the number of hours a truck driver should spend on the wheel, take breaks, and how long the trucker must rest before driving another shift. However, these regulations lengthen the delivery time, cutting the trucking company's profits.
Therefore, trucking companies pressure their truckers to work through rest and their sleep breaks and even encourage them to change the records they provide in their logbooks to hide this violation. As a result, truckers are more likely to cause an accident due to fatigue.
Laxity in Truck Maintenance
Nearly a quarter of all trucks involved in an accident have some equipment breakdown. All parts of a rig can fail, but the most problematic components include their brakes, electrical systems, and tires. Therefore, trucking companies should perform regular maintenance of their vehicles, including submitting them to regular inspections, retrieving vehicles that do not meet safety standards, and repair components that are worn out and malfunctioning. Failure to take note of these measures can put the trucking company liable for an accident.
Loading errors can be a form of negligence for both the trucker and the trucking company. However, trucking companies have a higher responsibility to ensure that their trucks are well loaded and meet trucking standards. If cargo is improperly secured, it might fall off the truck, striking other cars on the highway. For trucks carrying hazardous materials, they can explode or cause a fire, which can cause significant injuries to surviving victims.
How Respondeat Superior and Vicarious Liability Applies when Suing Trucking Companies
In Nevada, the elements of respondeat superior and vicarious liability are used when filing a compensation claim against a trucking company for their truckers' negligent actions. Respondeat Superior is a Latin phrase meaning "let the master answer." This doctrine makes a Nevada employer liable for the injuries caused by an employee when he or she is working under the employer's control.
In the case of a truck accident, a trucking company can be held responsible if the plaintiff proves the following:
The truck driver is an employee of the defendant (trucking company). The court usually checks whether the person is working under the control of a trucking company and whether he benefits the trucking company.
The trucker was acting in the scope of his or her employment at the time the accident occurred.
The truck driver’s actions caused your injuries.
The term vicarious liability means the same as respondeat superior. Under Nevada laws, people can sometimes end up responsible for actions based on the relationship between wrongdoers and other parties. This is a form of indirect liability and is referred to as "vicarious" liability.
Find a Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you or your loved one has been injured in a truck accident and are unsure whether the driver or the trucking company is liable, the attorneys at Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm are here to help. Call us at 702-996-1224, and let's discuss the cause of your injuries and find out how we can help you.