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Can truck companies be held responsible for truck accidents?

Many truck accidents are devastating affairs. When one of these behemoths crashes into a smaller automobile, it is usually the smaller automobile and the occupants inside that suffer the worst. When this happens, it is important to hold the right parties responsible. Of course, the driver of the truck may be responsible for the accident, but in some cases the truck company may also be held liable.

This may be possible through a legal concept known as "respondeat superior." Under respondeat superior employers can be held liable for their employee's negligence if the negligent acts occurred during the course of the worker's employment. This means that the act needs to be either approved by the employer, or the act needs to be one that is so close in nature to an approved act that the employer should face liability.

Of course, it is important to understand the distinction between acts undertaken by a worker that lead to a job-related accident and acts that are actually not related to the worker's employment at all. Courts refer to this distinction as either a "detour" or a "frolic." A detour is an act that is so close to an employer's instructions that the employer should face liability. For example, if a worker is given a company cell phone to use while driving on the job, the employer may be liable for subsequent accidents. A frolic occurs when the worker is not following his or her employer's instructions, for example, using a company car for a personal purpose, like going to a party. The employer may not be responsible in these situations.

When it comes to truck accidents, it is important to establish an employer-employee relationship in order to hold a truck company responsible through respondeat superior. If the driver of the truck is not an employee, but instead is an independent contractor, this could be a problem. In the end, respondeat superior is a complex topic. This post cannot serve as the basis of a legal claim, nor does it provide legal advice. Those who want to learn more about it may want to seek the help of an attorney, so they can take the appropriate actions.

Source: FindLaw, "An Employer's Liability for Employee's Acts," accessed June 2, 2016

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