The issue of whether the truck driver who you were involved in an accident with is an employee or an independent contractor of a trucking company is quite important for determining whether you have the right to sue, and potentially recover damages only from the truck driver himself or also from the trucking company.
Not surprisingly, trucking companies often like to call their drivers “independent contractors” because then there is often no imputed tort liability and they are not legally responsible for the actions of the drivers. The law knows that this classification is an advantage to the trucking companies, so they don’t just take the company’s word for it, but instead there are many factors involved in making a determination of whether a particular truck driver is, or is not, really an employee of the trucking company.
There are many factors involved in making a determination of whether a particular truck driver is an employee or independent contractor of a particular trucking company. These factors have to be applied on a case by case basis, and there are many gray areas where one factor points one way, and another factor points in the opposite direction. That is why hiring experienced trucking accident attorneys can be so important, to help sort this information out.
However, here are some factors courts typically look at in making the determination:
Even when a truck driver is determined to be an independent contractor there are certain instances where the trucking company may still be liable for his or her actions. This is based on federal regulations which impute liability on a trucking company when a truck driver (owner-operator) is “under dispatch” of, and working under the operating authority of the motor carrier (trucking company). There are many gray areas surrounding when a driver is “under dispatch” or not, and an experienced truck accident attorney can help determine whether this exception applies in a particular case.
Starr Austen and Miller focuses on representing individuals and their family members in serious personal injury and wrongful death cases, such as those often involved in trucking accidents. If you or a loved one has been in a truck accident you can contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.
[Source: The Brief, Fall 2011]