When Is the Trucking Company Liable?

Posted on May 11, 2023 in Truck Accidents

Trucking companies are frequently liable for collisions involving their vehicles. These entities are vicariously responsible for their employees’ actions under a legal doctrine known as respondeat superior.

To recover compensation when a trucking company is liable, you must have strong evidence to convince the company’s insurance carrier that their policyholder is legally responsible. Alternatively, you could take the case to a civil trial and convince a jury to award fair compensation.

Working with a truck accident lawyer could make building your case and recovering compensation less stressful. You do not want to go toe-to-toe with a large corporation on your own. An attorney familiar with navigating these claims and lawsuits will know how to build the case and recover compensation. Most provide free case assessments.

How Does Liability Usually Work in a Traffic Accident?

In most traffic accidents, the at-fault driver’s insurer is liable for the injuries that occur. The victim needs to show fault to hold it accountable. This requires an investigation where they identify, preserve, and analyze evidence to build a case. This case needs to show negligence.

There are four elements of negligence.

They include:

  • Duty of care
  • Breach of duty
  • Causation
  • Harm

A driver often has a duty of care because of a specific traffic law. By violating that law, they breach their duty of care. This causes a crash, and the victim suffers harm. However, a driver is not always the only at-fault party. Sometimes, a trucking or shipping company causes or contributes to a crash.

When Is a Trucking Company Directly Liable for a Crash?

In some circumstances, a trucking company’s negligence causes an accident and injuries. When this occurs, it’s likely liable for any injuries or damages victims suffer.

Some examples of a trucking company’s negligence include:

  • A negligent trucker has a history of issues, but the company maintains them as an employee anyway.
  • The company fails to maintain or repair the truck or trailer.
  • The company fails to train a driver or ensure they have the necessary training and experience.
  • The company pressures a driver to violate hours of service laws or otherwise drive beyond their capabilities.

Multiple Parties Could Share Liability for a Trucking Accident

In addition to an individual driver and the trucking company, others could be liable for a truck collision. This depends entirely on the circumstances of the crash.

These parties could include:

  • A shipping company that loaded the cargo incorrectly
  • A maintenance company that did not provide the appropriate services
  • A repair company that did not make necessary repairs
  • A manufacturer that produced a faulty vehicular component

While most accidents occur because of a driver’s error, there are other reasons why a crash could occur. Getting to the bottom of what happened and all contributing factors is essential in a truck accident case to identify all possible liable parties.

What Is Vicarious Liability?

In most truck accident cases, victims do not pursue a case against the individual driver. This is true even when that driver’s carelessness or recklessness caused the collision. A legal doctrine known as respondeat superior also holds their employer responsible. This doctrine is codified into law in many states and recognized by case law in others.


Under respondeat superior, an employer is vicariously liable for the actions of their employees when:

  • The employee is negligent.
  • The employee was on the clock or working on job-related tasks when the negligence occurred.

When a truck driver is behind the wheel of a big rig and causes a crash, it generally meets these criteria. That means the victim has the option of holding the trucking company vicariously liable. This is usually a good idea since most large corporations have liability policies much greater than any individual would carry.

This requires the victim to build a case against a company instead of an individual and deal with the company’s attorneys and insurers. However, it also means they have the chance to recover full compensation for their losses. This might be essential when there are serious or catastrophic injuries common in truck collisions.

How Do I Build a Case Against the Trucking Company?

You must gather evidence to hold the trucking company legally responsible for your truck accident and injuries. Trucking collisions often have more evidence than other crash cases because of federal laws.

Supporting evidence in your case could include:

  • The crash report filed by local law enforcement officers at the scene
  • An accident scene survey
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Videos of the crash from dashcams, traffic cameras, or nearby businesses
  • Photos of the crash scene
  • Accident reconstruction data
  • Documentation of the damage to each vehicle
  • The trucker’s employment and driving records
  • Mandatory post-accident alcohol and drug test results
  • The truck’s onboard computer data
  • Hours of service logs
  • Relevant medical records
  • Expert opinions about prognosis, future care needs, and costs
  • Documentation of recoverable damages

With this evidence, you will need to show that the trucking company is directly or vicariously liable for the collision.

Often, identifying, preserving, and analyzing the evidence on your own is difficult. The trucking company holds much of the evidence in a truck crash case. Other key pieces, such as working with experts, are only possible if you have the network and resources to hire them. Having an attorney to manage your investigation and handle your case makes this process straightforward.

What Damages Can I Recover in a Truck Accident Case?

Truck Accident Lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona areaThe recoverable damages in any traffic accident case should cover the expenses and losses the victim experienced because of the crash. Recoverable damages and their values vary widely. Many things influence these factors, including injuries, necessary treatment, prognosis, previous income, and more.

As a part of building a case to hold the trucking company liable, you will need to document your expenses and losses so you can estimate a fair settlement range for your claim.

Your attorney can calculate your losses by reviewing:

  • All the bills, estimates, and receipts collected
  • Time away from work and applicable tax forms
  • Statements from experts about your future care and prognosis
  • Their experience with similar cases

This information allows them to estimate where a fair settlement might lie based on the unique damages you suffered. It is often too easy for crash victims to overlook their damages or not have the necessary evidence to fully understand their values.

Compensation Should Account for Each of Your Injury-Related Expenses

When your attorney estimates a fair settlement range for your case, their calculations could account for:

  • Medical bills and related expenses to date
  • Future medical needs, expenses, and ongoing care costs
  • Income losses from missing work during treatment
  • Diminished earning capacity if lasting injuries keep you from your job
  • Property damages, including vehicle repair or replacement
  • Miscellaneous expenses with receipts
  • Pain and suffering and other non-economic damages
  • Wrongful death damages (if the victim passes away from their injuries)

Once you understand your recoverable damages and their estimated values, you can use that figure to guide your settlement negotiations. Taking this step first ensures you will know when you get a fair offer and feel confident you are not leaving a lot of money on the table. You do not want to accept an offer that will leave you paying for your future care and support out of your pocket.

What Are My Options for Recovering Compensation in a Truck Accident Case?

Most states allow trucking accident victims to pursue compensation and hold the liable parties responsible for their losses. In general, there are two ways an injured claimant can recover fair compensation based on their case’s facts. These options include:

Filing an Insurance Claim and Negotiating a Fair Settlement

Most successful cases end with a negotiated settlement and payout from the trucking company’s liability insurance carrier. These companies often have large corporate liability policies, and their limits are beyond the value of the policy. The insurance adjuster or company lawyer tries to keep the payout as low as possible, but the victim’s attorney aggressively pursues fair compensation.

Once they reach an agreement, the lawyer accepts the offer on their client’s behalf. The victim signs an agreement they will not pursue further action, and the insurance company cuts a check.

Suing the Liable Parties, Going to Trial, and Asking the Jury to Award Fair Compensation

Sometimes, truck accident cases require victims to sue the trucking company for fair compensation. Even when this occurs, the case often ends in a negotiated settlement. Yet, if the insurer or trucking company refuses to pay out enough to justly compensate the victim, the case could go to trial.

At trial, the victim’s attorney presents strong evidence to show negligence and liability. Then, they ask the jury to award fair compensation based on the expenses and losses their client suffered.

How Will a Truck Accident Attorney Help Me Hold the Trucking Company Liable?

When you hire an experienced truck accident lawyer to manage your case, they will take care of everything. From start to finish, they will build the case, demand compensation, communicate with the insurer, negotiate, and aggressively pursue justice on your behalf. Meanwhile, you should feel confident that your case is in good hands. With a lawyer on your side, you can focus your attention on treatment and healing.

Many Truck Accident Lawyers Charge Nothing Upfront

Because truck accident attorneys generally work on contingency, they will go to work on your case with no upfront fees. You owe nothing until the case closes and the firm receives the compensation from the trucking company or its insurer. Then, they take their percentage and forward the rest to you. If you do not win, they do not get paid.

A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Prepare Your Lawsuit

When necessary, your attorney will prepare the paperwork and begin a civil lawsuit against the trucking company and other liable parties. This is fairly common in these cases. Sometimes, a lawsuit prompts the insurance carrier to increase its settlement offer. Courts could require mediation, where a trained mediator makes recommendations and helps the parties reach a fair agreement.

Settling out of court, even after filing a lawsuit, is more common than going to trial. However, your attorney will take your case to a jury trial when necessary. This requires them to present the case’s evidence to the jury and ask them to award fair compensation.

What Should I Do After a Collision With a Commercial Truck?

Even if you’re unsure about pursuing compensation, you should seek medical attention at your earliest convenience. This ties your injuries to the collision and helps you reach maximum medical improvement.

Other considerations after your truck accident include:

  • Documenting your damages
  • Completing your treatment plan
  • Photographing your physical injuries
  • Refusing to give a recorded statement to the insurer
  • Limiting what you publicly share about the incident
  • Referring all settlement offers to your truck accident lawyer

You should also consider the many benefits of partnering with an attorney. They can pour all their resources into your case and fight for a fair outcome. You’re not alone in your fight for financial justice. You have options.

Discuss Your Case With a Truck Accident Team for Free

Robert W. Boatman, Truck accident Attorney

Robert W. Boatman, Truck Accident Lawyer in Phoenix, AZ 

If you suffered injuries in a trucking crash, you could have a case against the trucking company or another large corporation. Navigating the process to hold a large entity responsible can intimidate those who do not handle these cases regularly.

This is especially true for victims undergoing treatment. Working with a personal injury law firm in Phoenix helps. With a lawyer on your side, you can focus your full attention on healing not juggling a complex legal case.