How to File a Lawsuit Against a Trucking Company in Texas
Lawsuits against trucking companies are incredibly common in trucking accident cases. There are features of Texas law that allow you to file your case against the specific driver who hit you as well as the company they work for.
You can usually file a lawsuit against a trucking company by proving either (or both) of two things. First, you can show that the accident occurred while the driver was working within the scope of their duties as a trucking company employee. Second, you can show that the trucking company made its own mistakes that contributed to the accident. Typically, attorneys will pursue both options and attempt to get the majority of damages paid by the trucking company.
For help suing a trucking company for a car accident, call the Arlington truck accident attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm. To get started with a free case review, call us today at (817) 476-1797.
Suing a Trucking Company for the Driver’s Mistakes in Texas
The first method of suing a trucking company for an accident is to hold them responsible for their driver’s actions. Just like with any other company, a trucking company is made up of people, and the company is liable for what those people do. However, in order for the trucking company to be liable for the driver’s actions, those actions have to have been in service of the company.
Typically, you can file a claim against the trucking company under a theory called respondeat superior. This legal doctrine makes the employer answer for the employee’s actions if certain conditions are met. For truck accident cases, this means the actions that led to the crash need to have occurred while the driver was an employee of the company and acting within the scope of employment.
Always work with a Dallas truck accident lawyer because this legal concept often has difficult rules that are applied differently under different circumstances, and courts are often changing precisely how these rules are applied.
For a truck driver to be considered an employee, they need to be under the trucking company’s control. Many truckers are independent contractors, and their activities might not be under the direct control of any specific employer. Additionally, the fact that a company has cargo on a truck does not mean they are the driver’s employer – they’re just a client/customer. E.g., a UPS semi truck driver transporting packages for Amazon would not be an Amazon employee, but rather a UPS employee. If the truck driver is an independent trucker, they would not have an “employer” to sue.
If the trucking company has the driver on payroll; controls the time, place, and manner of their work; and gives the driver a W-2 at tax time, it’s pretty clear they’re an employee. If they only pay them based on the job, do not control those factors of their work, and give them a 1099, it’s likely they are an independent contractor. Your attorney can help determine which category the driver fits into in your specific case and who their “employer” is.
The driver must actually be on duty as well. When the driver is on the clock, engaged, and on duty will heavily depend on the specifics of their employment. Especially since truckers are required to take rests and breaks, it is sometimes difficult to tell when a trucker is “working.”
“Scope of Employment”
For actions to be within the scope of employment for the trucker, they need to be similar to the actions the trucker usually performs. For a trucker, this is pretty simple in many cases: their job is driving the truck. If the accident happened while they were driving the truck, it’s likely that was within the scope of their duties.
However, issues might arise if the driver did something that violates company policy or that goes against their employer’s instructions. For example, driving under the influence of alcohol or taking a completely different route so they can do a personal errand on the way to their delivery might be outside of the scope of their employment.
Typically, courts judge whether or not the actions are within the scope of employment by looking at what the employee is authorized to do and whether the actions benefit the employer. This line can be hard to draw when it comes to things like speeding, which might be unauthorized but definitely benefits the employer by providing faster shipping times. It may take good legal arguments to use respondeat superior in some borderline cases.
Suing a Trucking Company for Its Own Mistakes in Texas
Trucking companies can be held partially liable for a crash alongside the driver if the company did something wrong in its own right that contributed to the crash. Your Fort Worth truck accident attorneys can help include a trucking company alongside the driver if any of the following examples happened in your case:
Negligent Maintenance and Equipment Issues
If the trucking company owns the truck that the trucker was driving when the accident happened, they could be liable for many problems caused by negligent maintenance or faulty equipment. Trucking companies have requirements for maintenance schedules and equipment checks. Failing to follow these rules can make them responsible for missed mechanical problems and equipment issues that they should have caught and repaired.
Negligent Hiring and Retention
When a trucking company hires a driver, they have to follow certain state and federal rules. These rules prevent the trucking company from hiring drivers with bad driving records, criminal convictions, certain medical conditions, and the wrong type of driver’s license for the vehicle and job position. If a driver should never have been hired in the first place, the trucking company can often be held partly responsible for the crash because of their negligence in the hiring process.
Trucking companies can also be liable if they are put on notice that one of their employees is dangerous. Recent accidents and DUIs are essentially unforgivable in the trucking industry. Retaining a dangerous employee could make the trucking company partly liable if the driver repeats known issues and violations.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) creates rules that truckers and trucking companies need to follow regarding hiring, driving hours, weight limits, and cargo loading. Violations of these rules at the individual or company level can cause accidents, and companies can often be held partly liable for a crash based on these violations.
Call Our Texas Truck Accident Attorneys Today
If you were injured in a crash involving a semi-truck in Texas, call The Queenan Law Firm. Our Houston truck accident attorneys have experience with truck accident cases and can work to hold the trucking company liable for your injuries. Call us for a free case review today at (817) 476-1797.