- The driver. Many commercial trucking operations don’t directly hire their drivers. Instead, drivers are independent contractors. Depending on how the driver is licensed, different insurance requirements may apply. For example, a driver who is subject to federal motor carrier laws must carry significantly higher insurance coverage than a driver of a private passenger car.
- The driver’s employer. Even if the driver is an independent contractor who must carry separate insurance, the employer likely is liable under the theory that the driver was acting as the employer’s agent at the time of the accident. Even if a contractual arrangement between the driver and employer says otherwise, the injured plaintiff probably should sue both. At best, the contract between the driver and employer may create a separate issue that the two of them will need to sort out independently from the injury claim.
- The truck’s owner. Some accident cases involve significant questions about the maintenance of a vehicle. Like the employment of drivers, the ownership of trucks is not necessarily obvious at first glance. When a leasing firm owns the truck and has obligations to maintain it, the injured plaintiff may need to involve the owner in the litigation. In some cases the other defendants may bring in the owner if they think it should bear some fault.
Getting into an accident with a commercial truck can open up a host of special issues that aren’t often present in accidents involving private vehicles. The truck’s driver is only one of a number of parties that will be involved in the process. The driver’s employer and its insurance carrier will also be involved. In some cases, the truck may be owned by one firm and leased to another. In others, the driver might be an independent contractor and only minimally covered under the employer’s insurance. These sorts of problems don’t mean that an injured plaintiff has no hope of recovering compensation—far from it—but it does put more balls in the air for attorneys to juggle. Personal injury lawsuits that arise out of auto accidents often happen because the driver’s insurer has refused to cover the full range of the plaintiff’s injuries, or because the insurer’s coverage obligations aren’t enough and other sources of compensation need to be found. Many cases involve a combination of the two. The plaintiff typically will sue the at-fault driver and his or her insurance carrier may provide legal assistance as part of its services. When the at-fault driver was a commercial truck driver, there can be an additional set of parties involved in the litigation: