Large commercial vehicles including trucks can weigh up to 20-30 times the weight of a car. The enormous force involved in truck accidents can cause severe injuries or even death. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that most deaths in truck accidents involve passenger vehicle occupants. Injuries caused by truck accidents may be life-altering and may put the victim under tremendous financial strain.
The victim may sue the at-fault party by filing a personal injury claim. A common doubt that arises in the mind of the injured is whether he or she will be able to sue a truck driver’s employer after the accident. In Indiana, you can sue the truck driver’s employer, provided certain conditions are fulfilled.
Who Can Be Sued for a Truck Accident?
Multiple parties may be involved in a truck accident. These include the truck driver, truck manufacturer, trucking company or employer, and cargo loader. Determining who is at fault is not always easy and requires a thorough examination of the evidence.
Several issues including manufacturing defects, driver’s negligence, overloading of the truck, and work hours beyond Indiana’s maximum limit of 11 hours are considered while determining liability in a truck accident. Sometimes, multiple parties are held liable for the truck accident. Determining who is at fault is one of the first issues an Indiana car accident attorney deals with.
When Can an Employer Be Held Liable?
In Indiana, trucking businesses or employers can be held liable for the truck accident under the principle of “vicarious liability.” This principle transfers the liability of the driver to the employer, provided the driver was acting within the “course and scope” of employment. While determining the liability of the truck driver or employer, three factors are generally considered:
Independent Contractor or Employee
If the truck driver was an independent contractor and not an employee of the trucking business, it is unlikely that the trucking company will be held liable for the accident. Many businesses disguise their employees as independent contractors to avoid legal liability. With the help of an attorney, you may be able to determine if the driver is an employee or an independent contractor.
Intended or Unintended Negligence
To hold the employer liable for the accident, it is necessary to prove that the injury was caused due to unintentional negligence of the driver. This means that the driver should not have intended to cause the accident. Additionally, violations of state and federal trucking laws by the driver or the trucking company may also make the employer liable. For example, allowing a driver to drive without the mandatory training required for truck drivers is a violation of trucking laws.
Course and Scope of Employment
The driver must be within the course and scope of employment. This is a complex issue and its determination involves multiple factors:
- Nature, place, and time of the driver’s negligence
- Freedom and discretion given to the truck driver
- Driver’s job description and duties
For example, if a truck driver causes an accident on a highway while transporting goods to another city, the accident will be considered within the scope of employment. However, if after duty hours, the driver takes the truck to pick up a friend and causes an accident, the employer will not be held liable.
Types of Damages
The types of damages that may be awarded to the victim or his or her family in a truck accident claim include:
- Medical bills including doctor’s fees and costs of treatment, tests and scans, and rehabilitation costs.
- Lost wages if the victim is not able to work due to the injuries caused by the accident.
- Loss of earning capacity if the nature of the injuries permanently hinders the victim’s ability to work.
- Emotional distress caused by psychological illnesses including anxiety and depression.
- Punitive damages might also be awarded in rare cases involving willful negligence.
Have You Been Injured in a Truck Accident in Indiana?
Determining who is the at-fault party in a truck accident is a complicated process. Parties and their insurance companies will try to shift blame. With the help of Indiana truck accident attorneys, you can understand and evaluate the evidence to determine who is liable for your injuries. At Stewart & Stewart, we provide free, no-obligation case review to the victims of truck accidents. Contact us today for a free review of your case.