If you get into an accident with a truck or 18-wheeler, you could be facing expensive medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering that you deserve compensation for. In many cases, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit to get the damages you deserve, but it is important to make sure that you file your claim against the proper parties. Between insurance companies, the driver, and the trucking company they work for, it can be confusing whom to file your lawsuit against. The Philadelphia trucking accident lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm explain whether you sue the trucking company or the driver for a trucking accident in Pennsylvania.
Do I Sue the Driver for a Trucking Accident in PA?
In Pennsylvania, your ability to sue for a car accident in the first place might depend on what insurance you have. If you have “limited tort” insurance, it means that your injuries are usually covered by your insurance and you are not allowed to sue unless your injuries are sufficiently severe or meet cost thresholds. If you have “full tort” insurance, you can sue for any car accident injuries. Either way, a serious accident with a truck probably entitles you to sue – but should you sue the driver?
Car accidents typically must be filed against the driver who was actually responsible for the accident. In the case of a trucking accident, the driver who was actively behind the wheel at the time of the crash would be the primary defendant. If there were multiple drivers trading off or the driver worked for a trucking company, you should still sue the individual driver first.
However, the driver is unlikely to have the money to pay for your damages if you were seriously injured. Their insurance can often cover damages that truck drivers might not be able to cover themselves, but you may also be able to sue the trucking company to go after higher damages.
Can I Sue a Trucking Company for a Semi Truck Accident?
Semi trucks are typically owned and operated in one of two ways: either the trucking company owns the rigs and hires drivers to drive them or owner-operators who work as independent contractors for other shipping companies. When a driver works as an independent contractor, there may be no company behind them to sue. However, in cases where a driver works for a trucking company as an employee, you can usually sue the company for its drivers’ mistakes.
Employers are typically responsible for their employee’s mistakes. Companies and businesses act through their employees, and businesses are usually responsible for what their employees do in the same way that people are responsible for what their hands or mouths do. Under PA law, this is known as “vicarious liability,” or sometimes “respondeat superior.”
In a vicarious liability case, you hold one party responsible for the acts of another party because they had some oversight, supervision, or responsibility for the other party’s actions. In the case of a trucking company, the company has control over what its driver does and how they do it, which includes the mistakes they made behind the wheel.
To hold an employer responsible for its employee’s actions, you must prove that their negligence occurred while they were working within the scope of their duties. For a truck driver, this is usually satisfied any time that the driver is behind the wheel of the truck they were hired to drive. If the driver goes off-route or takes the truck out on their own time, the company might try to fight liability. Otherwise, the trucking company should be liable for its drivers’ mistakes behind the wheel.
This means that you can typically sue the trucking company alongside the driver, “joining” them both as co-defendants in the car accident lawsuit.
Suing Trucking Companies for Equipment Problems and Regulation Violations in PA
Trucking companies may also be directly liable for problems that led to the crash. Many trucking accidents are caused by problems with the truck itself, not the driver. Trucking companies are legally responsible for maintaining and servicing trucks in their fleet, and they cannot put them on the road without making sure that the tires, engine, and trailer are in working order. If the accident was caused because of dangerous or faulty equipment, the trucking company might be primarily responsible instead of the driver. In some cases, the driver might also be a victim of these kinds of errors.
Moreover, trucking companies have been known to violate safety regulations and federal regulations. If they do so, that may have contributed directly to the crash, and they could be responsible for this.
Suing Trucking Companies for Negligent Hiring and Retention in PA
The other way to hold a trucking company responsible is for negligent and dangerous hiring and employee retention decisions. If the trucking company hires a driver that has a bad history of truck accidents, DUI, vehicular assault, or drug use, they should know that that driver would be at risk for causing accidents. Similarly, if they have a driver on-staff that has committed these kinds of issues, keeping them on staff would be dangerous to others on the road as well. While the driver might be primarily responsible for the crash, you can sue the trucking company for contributing to the accident by putting a bad driver behind the wheel.
Call Our Philadelphia Truck Accident Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
If you or a family member was injured in a truck accident, call the Reiff Law Firm today. Our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys represent victims of serious car accidents and truck accidents and fight to get them compensation for their injuries. For a free legal consultation, call our law offices today at (215) 246-9000 before accepting any money from your insurance or the trucking company.