Truck Accidents and Employer Liability in D.C.

Being involved in a truck accident in Washington, D.C. can be the moment that changes your life the most. Even though car accidents involving just passenger vehicles are serious, they pale in comparison to a truck accident because tractor trailers weigh ten times as much as a typical car even when they are not hauling any cargo. When they have a trailer full of freight, though, trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Whenever something of this size gets involved in a collision, even if it is going slowly, the impact can be severe and the damages that it causes can be astounding.

Unfortunately, it is often the other person who is involved in a truck accident that suffers the most – truckers rarely are the ones who are seriously hurt in these kinds of accidents. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in accidents involving a truck and a passenger vehicle that result in a fatality, 97% of the time, it is one of the passenger vehicle occupants who died in the crash.

This is why it is so important to get full compensation for your injuries after a truck accident – the injuries that typically result from one of these crashes are intense.

Employer Liability After a Truck Accident

Unfortunately, the costs associated with the typical kinds of injuries suffered in a truck accident are often far more expensive than anything that the truck driver can cover. This makes it crucially important to implicate the trucking company in the crash: Not doing so would almost always leave you woefully undercompensated and in need of further financial help to make a full recovery.

Luckily, the personal injury law in Washington, D.C. allows truck accident victims to sue both the truck driver and the trucking company, as long as the trucker was within his or her scope of employment when the accident happened. This is the legal doctrine of respondeat superior.

Respondeat Superior

The personal injury law that governs truck accidents in Washington, D.C. recognizes that, when employees are on the clock, their employers are the ones who reap most of the benefits. Therefore, when an employee acts negligently while on the job, it makes sense for the employer to also be liable for the injuries that result – if the employee was not on the job, the accident would not have happened. Additionally, the real injustice of a personal injury situation is the accident victim, who now needs to make a long, expensive, and often painful recovery to get back to full health.

The legal idea of respondeat superior makes this happen. So long as the accident happened while the employee was on the job, the law in Washington, D.C. will impute the liability for the accident onto the employer, as well.

Scope of Employment

One of the key elements to the legal doctrine of respondeat superior is that the employee was acting within the scope of their employment when the accident happened. In a truck accident, this will almost always be the case – trucking companies pay their drivers to move cargo in their tractor trailers from one place to another, and truck crashes nearly always happen while this is going on. However, if a trucker is taking a detour from their path to their destination – if they are visiting family in the area or running a personal errand – or if they are on the road, but in between jobs, they might be outside the scope of their employment. If this is the case, then respondeat superior would not apply and it might be impossible to impute liability onto the employer, as well.

Employees and Independent Contractors

Additionally, respondeat superior only gets the employer involved if there is an employer/employee relationship. If the truck driver who hit you and caused your injuries was just an independent contractor, then respondeat superior will not apply to your case and you will not be able to get any compensation from the trucking company.

When it comes to determining if a truck driver is an employee or an independent contractor, the crucial thing to look at is how much control the employer is exerting over how they perform their work. Employees are required to follow their employer's instructions, detailing not only what is to be done, but also how to do it. Independent contractors, on the other hand, are only responsible for the results that they produce – their clients cannot dictate how they perform their job.

Why Employer Liability is So Important

If you have been hurt in a truck accident, being able to stretch to the trucking company to cover the costs of your recovery is crucial because the trucker is rarely able to completely cover your losses. If you are unable to use the doctrine of respondeat superior to make the trucking company liable, there is only a slim chance that you will get all of the financial help that you need to make a full recovery. On the other hand, if you are able to use respondeat superior to impute liability onto the trucking company, you will likely get all of the help you need to get back on your feet.

Washington, D.C. Truck Accident Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian

These kinds of legal ideas are rarely things that accident victims think much about after getting hurt. That is why it is so important to have a personal injury attorney from the law office of Gilman & Bedigian on your side after a truck accident in the District of Columbia. Our legal knowledge can make a huge difference in your quest for the compensation that you need to make the recovery that you deserve to make.

When you hire us as your legal representatives, you can count on us to vigorously fight for your rights and interests, both in and out of court. Contact us online or call us at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation to start exploring your legal options.

Let Us Help

If someone you are close to has been seriously injured or worse, you are naturally devastated not only by what has happened, but by the effect that the injury or loss has had on you and your family. At a time when you're vulnerable, traumatized and emotionally exhausted, you need a team that will support you through the often complex process that lies ahead.

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