Semi-truck collisions can be incredibly expensive for everyone involved. Crash victims could face severe injuries and property damage losses. A commercial driver could be at risk of injury and possibly the loss of their commercial driver’s license. Their employer could also have some degree of liability for the wreck in question.
Discussions about transportation company liability often focus on business practices. People sometimes try to hold a transportation company accountable for poorly-maintained vehicles or employment practices that seem to violate the law. However, transportation companies are often liable for collisions that occur in their vehicles even when the company is very proactive about ensuring legal compliance and the proper maintenance of fleet vehicles.
The legal rules establishing vicarious liability for employers apply in the transportation sector and can make a company directly responsible for any incident caused by the negligence of one of its employees.
How vicarious liability works
Usually, liability for a situation falls directly to an individual who caused an unfavorable outcome through negligence or illegal behavior. Vicarious liability involves passing responsibility for an incident to an outside party. A third party may sometimes have legal and financial responsibility for situations that did not directly involve that party.
Employer liability for worker misconduct and negligence is relatively common. Respondeat superior is the legal term for the liability employers have for the actions of their workers. For transportation companies, the legal concept of respondeat superior and the vicarious liability it passes to the organization could make the business responsible if a driver eats at the wheel, consumes alcohol despite the rules against doing so or otherwise drives in an unsafe manner.
Thankfully, the liability insurance coverage carried by a transportation firm will typically cover losses related to vicarious liability just like it would a claim related to a truly unpredictable situation, like a jackknife incident involving a fleet vehicle. Employers in the transportation sector can reduce their vicarious liability through proactive training and rigorous standards that may apply to worker conduct before and during their shifts.