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Who can be held liable for fatal truck accidents?

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2020 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

It is no secret that accidents involving semi-trucks in northern Virginia are often fatal. After all, a semi-truck weighing tens of thousands of pounds has the laws of physics on its side and is simply no match for a standard automobile.

Things are especially tragic when the loved one lost is your spouse, especially if they were the breadwinner in the family. The surviving spouse in such situations has not only lost the love of their life, but they may be worried about how to make ends meet. In situations like this, they may want to pursue a wrongful death claim. However, lawsuits based on semi-truck accidents differ in some ways from traditional personal injury and wrongful death claims, specifically, in identifying the responsible parties.

Potential parties: trucking companies

In a wrongful death claim, you must be able to show that the other party was negligent, and this negligence lead to your loved one’s death. In accidents involving semi-trucks, sometimes the trucking company will be held liable for the trucker’s negligence if the two had an employer-employee relationship. This is due to the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior.” Basically, this doctrine means that an employer is responsible for the acts of an employee if the acts took place within the course of the employee’s job duties.

Potential parties: truck drivers

However, sometimes a trucker is considered an independent contractor, meaning they do not have an employer-employee relationship with the truck company. In such situations, while the truck company may not be held liable, the trucker could be held personally liable for the collision. Truck companies may try to avoid being sued by claiming the trucker was an independent contractor. However, to be classified as an independent contractor, the trucker must fulfill certain specific conditions. For example, if the truck company pays employment taxes, then the trucker might be classified as an employee, not an independent contractor.

Other potential parties

Depending on the cause of the accident, other parties may also be subject to a lawsuit. For example, if the crash was caused by a defective part, the manufacturer of that part may be held liable. Or, if the accident was caused by an unsecured load, the cargo loader may be held liable.

Attorneys can help those pursuing wrongful death claims

Ultimately, each wrongful death case is unique, and the information in this post should not be used as the basis for a legal filing. Those in the Winchester area who want to purse a lawsuit may want to first consult with a compassionate, knowledgeable personal injury attorney. The thought of pursuing a lawsuit may be intimidating, but ultimately it is important to receive the compensation you need to move forward from your loss. Attorneys in the northern Virginia area can guide their clients through all stages of the legal process and can provide clear, realistic information on their client’s rights and options.