What Is Respondeat Superior, and How Does It Affect My Truck Accident Case?
Respondeat superior is a legal concept that can make an employer responsible for the mistakes of their employees or workers if that mistake occurs due to or during their employment. This legal rule is instrumental in many types of accidents because it allows a victim to seek better and fuller compensation from an employer if an employee hurts them due to negligence. For example, if you slip and fall in a retail store because an employee for a wet floor sign, then respondeat superior allows you to sue the retail company, not that individual employee.
When it comes to truck accidents, the use of respondeat superior can be crucial to obtain fair compensation, but only when it applies. To the dismay of many truck accident victims, it does not apply to many truck accident cases due to legal complications surrounding independent contractors.
No Respondeat Superior for Independent Contractors
In general, independent contractors are not included under the expectations of respondeat superior. If an independent contractor’s negligence hurts a third party, then the party that paid or hired the independent contractor most likely cannot be held partially liable because the liable party is not an employee.
Truck drivers are often independent contractors for this reason and others. Trucking companies are notorious for finding new ways to save money and hiring most truckers as independent contractors is one such way. Not only are independent contractors less expensive to hire due to lessened employment benefits, but they are also incapable of passing accident liability upward to their employers due to the gap in respondeat superior. When this happens, you can file a claim against the truck driver and any insurance policies they have purchased on their own.
When Truck Drivers are Employees
Keep in mind that not all truck drivers are independent contractors. Many are employees of specific trucking or hauling companies. If you are hit by such a trucker, then respondeat superior could make it simpler for you to be fully compensated for your injuries by introducing the trucking company’s insurance policies into possible sources for financial recoveries.
There are also situations in which a truck driver is intentionally mislabeled as an independent contractor despite fulfilling all employment law requirements to be considered an employee. If you were hit by a truck driver who should be classified as an employee, but they are not, then your attorney might be able to uncover this discrepancy, challenge it in court, and widen your potential recovery by introducing respondeat superior into the case.
Do you have questions about how respondeat superior might apply to a truck accident you were recently in? Faraci Lange, LLP of Buffalo and Rochester can help. Please call our firm at (888) 997-4110 or contact us online to discover your legal options when pursuing compensation.