In Indiana, you can sue multiple parties for compensation based on various company stakeholders who share liability. These stakeholders include third-party rig owners, the company that employs the driver, the truck manufacturer, and third parties assigned to load and secure the vehicle. In addition, employers can be held liable for Indiana truck accidents based on vicarious liability.
You can sue the driver’s employer, provided they performed work-related duties when the accident occurred. However, three major considerations are necessary before naming an employer to the list of liable parties.
Driver Must Be an Employee and Not an Independent Contractor
Independent contractors are not employees, and trucking companies that hire independent contractors can’t normally be sued. However, some companies classify their employees as independent contractors just to avoid liability for accidents and injuries. A skilled attorney can often help you determine that an alleged independent contractor was an employee.
Determination of Whether Accident Was Deliberate or Unintentional
The type of accident must be considered unintentional and not deliberate to sue the driver’s employer for damages. Deliberate acts transform accidents into crimes, but intentionally violating federal or state of Indiana trucking laws makes employers liable. Allowing inexperienced or untrained drivers to operate the vehicle also creates employer liability.
Cause and Scope of Employment
The drivers must be doing the jobs that employers set out for them. That means the accident must occur within the narrow confines of job duties. Any discretionary use of the truck doesn’t qualify.
The principle of vicarious liability would transfer liability to an employer if the accident happened while a legitimate employee worked within the course and scope of employment, which means the driver wasn’t on their own time seeking entertainment.
What Causes Can Victims Use in Their Lawsuits?
Generally, victims in Indiana truck accidents can sue multiple trucking company stakeholders for economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Each defendant becomes liable for a predetermined percentage of liability. For example, a third-party truck loader might be held to be 25% responsible for a truck accident.
That means the loader is liable for 25% of the accident’s expenses and settlement of non-economic damages. Punitive damages are granted based on highly specific activities that an average person would find reprehensible and only apply to specific defendants.
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and enjoyment of normal activities. Economic damages include all expenses related to injuries, rehabilitation, psychological counseling, lost wages at work, estimates of future medical expenses, and expenses for property damages.
Rehabilitation strategies often include expenses for psychological treatment, which tends to minimize the symptoms of the injuries. Unfortunately, elevated stress levels are increasingly common among accident victims, and stress can aggravate a victim’s physical injuries.
Trucking Industry Accountability
Transportation accidents account for 47% of fatal injuries caused at work. Truck accidents can cause tremendous damage, and fatigue, sleep disorders, and distracted driving cause many accidents. Other frequent causes of truck accidents include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Poor maintenance
- Reckless driving
- Inadequate balancing or support of cargo loads
- Adverse road conditions
- Bad weather, including rain downpours, excessive wind speed, snow and ice storms, hail, and even hot weather baking the pavement
- Forgotten or ignored truck inspections
From this list of common truck accident causes, it’s easy to understand why drivers, trucking companies, rig owners, loaders, and maintenance staff can share liability. Drivers remain in the hot seat because they could be liable in so many ways. In the survey mentioned, more than half of long-haul truck drivers admit to falling asleep sometime in their careers.
Getting Help for Compensation Issues
Trucks cause severe and often disabling injuries, and medical treatments have become so expensive that most people can’t afford them without insurance coverage. That’s why you should ask a truck accident lawyer in Fort Wayne about any compensation to which you might be entitled.
When involved in a car accident with a truck, you should gather as much information as possible to support your claim. Take pictures of the accident scene, document the damage and injuries to each party, and get witnesses’ names and contact information. Be sure not to admit fault in the accident, as this will harm your case and make it difficult to recover compensation.