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Attorney Murry J. Parrish

Attorney Pepper DeVaughn

Modern semi truck and trailer on turning rocky windy road

Semi Truck Accidents: Is the Driver Always at Fault?

In many car accident cases, it can be difficult to determine which party was at fault. In commercial truck accidents, it’s especially hard to determine who is legally liable, even if it was clearly the truck’s fault. Let’s take a closer look at the legal process that happens after you’ve been hit by a semi truck in Oklahoma.

Company Liability

Because of the theory of “respondeat superior,” truck companies are typically held liable for traffic accidents that one of their drivers have caused. This is a Latin phrase meaning “let the superior make answer.”

This principle stipulates that an employer is responsible for its employees and the wrongful acts they may commit while in the scope of employment. It applies when the acts were unintentional, and therefore accidents. The employer in such cases is held liable as if it were the one to commit the wrongful act and not its employee.

The wrongful acts that occur as part of doing business and the losses they incur are therefore chalked up to part of the cost of doing business. Companies are also thought to have more funds available and be therefore more able to protect themselves via insurance than their employees.

Independent Contractor Cases

If you’ve been hit by a semi truck in Oklahoma and the truck driver is an independent contractor, the policy of respondeat superior does not apply. Companies are not typically held liable for the actions of independent contractors. Independent contractors may, for example, drive trucks they own and have their own liability insurance coverage, and receive no benefits from the trucking company (or companies) they complete routes for.

Scope Of Employment

For a truck company to be held liable for the wrongful acts of one of its drivers, the driver must have been involved in the accident while “within the scope of employment.” There are many different factors that come into play when determining if the act was within the scope of employment or not. Some factors include employee intent; type of work they were hired to do; the amount of freedom they were allowed in performing duties; nature, place and time of the conduct; and the incidental acts reasonably expected of the employee by the employer.

If you’re hit by a truck while the driver is making a delivery, that would be “within the scope of employment” and the employer would be liable. But, if the driver leaves his route early to do something else and hits you while not working, the company could argue against its liability, as the truck was not within the scope of employment at the time of the accident.

If you’ve been hit by a semi truck in Oklahoma, you need a good legal team on your side. Give us a call at Parrish DeVaughn Law Firm today.

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