Perhaps nothing is scarier than coming face-to-face, or side-to-side, with a 12-ton, 18-wheeled steel behemoth while barreling 75 miles per hour down one of San Francisco’s many interstates and highways. Accidents involving tractor trailers often result in catastrophic injuries and irreversible property damage. However, if you are considering a personal injury action against the driver responsible for your accident, you may potentially access additional causes of action against the driver’s employer, which often serves as a better, more liquid, defendant. If you have questions about the procedures involved with tractor trailer accidents, we encourage you to give us a call today.
Understanding Vicarious Liability
Contained within the various negligence laws and sub-categories is a concept known as vicarious liability. Also referred to as respondeat superior, this cause of action imputes liability from an employee to his employer in the event an employer causes physical or financial injury to another person. There are specific exceptions, which are discussed further below, but in general this doctrine proves highly useful in cases involving tractor trailers. In most cases, a tractor trailer driver is but one employee of a massive trucking operation and the overall employer may be liable for that employee’s actions.
Under the current laws, an employer is answerable for the torts of his employee if, at the time of the injury, the employee was acting within the scope of employment and pursuant to valid, lawful employment duties. In the context of a tractor trailer accident, the case will involve an inquiry into whether, at the time of the accident, the truck driver was following a route for employment purposes, driving within his allotted work hours and otherwise adhering to the tenets of his job description.
Defenses to Vicarious Liability
There are a number of defenses to vicarious liability, which often work to release an employer from liability. First, if the driver was heading somewhere in the truck for personal reasons, or had taken a significant detour from the mandatory route, he may be acting outside the scope of employment. In addition, if the driver was intoxicated or driving through mandatory rest periods (which are required by federal law), the employer may be released from liability.
Working with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney
Accidents involving tractor trailers are often more complex than an average automobile accident. The case may require the use of forensic engineers to help recreate the scene and assess the damage. The case may also require medical testimony and testimony from the employer as to the driver’s specific duties and job description.
If you are interested in pursuing a civil lawsuit against the driver or trucking company possibly responsible for your accident, contact Nelson C. Barry today by calling: (415) 587-0550.