Who is Liable in a Truck Accident When the Driver is an Independent Contractor Working for a Trucking Company?

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Truck accidents often leave a trail of devastating destruction for all those involved. The consequences of a negligent driver’s actions may cause catastrophic injuries and untold pain and suffering for the accident victim and family. It is only natural to want to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.

Usually, the truck driver and trucking company will be investigated to determine who is liable for the damages. Yet, some trucking companies may try to evade responsibility and shift blame solely onto the truck driver. 

Despite the tactics some parties may use to avoid fault, certain factors that must be considered when establishing liability in a truck accident case. The team at Mike Morse Law Firm is available to answer your truck accident questions 24/7. Call or text us at 855-MIKE-WINS for reliable answers you can trust.

Independent Contractor vs. Trucking Company Employee

Many trucking companies hire independent contractors to transport their cargo. They may do this to try to shield the company from responsibility if an accident occurs. In that event, they can point out that the truck driver is not an employee. 

To prevent trucking companies from evading liability in a trucking accident, federal laws were established to regulate the trucking industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (49 C.F.R. § 390.5)removed the distinction between independent contractors and employees. This means that the trucking company’s responsibility to members of the public is the same as if the independent contractor were its actual employee.

Establishing the Working Relationship Between a Truck Driver and Trucking Company

When determining liability, the definition and terms of the working relationship between the truck driver and the truck company must be clearly understood. Your attorney will need to establish whether the driver was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the accident. 

The experienced lawyers with Mike Morse Law Firm will consider the following factors:

  • The level of control the trucking company has over the driver’s activities
  • The type of work the truck driver was hired to do
  • History of employment the driver had with other trucking companies
  • The truck driver’s intent
  • The nature, time, and place of the truck driver’s conduct
  • The kind of acts the trucking company should reasonably expect of the truck driver

If a truck driver was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the accident, the trucking company may be held responsible for the resulting damages. Trucking companies are required to hold comprehensive liability insurance, so you could get compensation by filing a claim with the insurer.

Commercial truck accidents get complicated fast, but there’s no need to worry. Mike Morse Law Firm can help you seek compensation for your damages by filing a claim against the trucking company’s insurer on your behalf.

When is a Truck Driver Liable for Damages?

Whether a truck driver is an employee or an independent contractor at the time of the collision, he or she may be held liable for damages. This may happen if the truck driver was acting outside of the scope of employment with the trucking company at that time.

If a truck driver is hired as an independent contractor, he or she may be held liable for negligent behavior such as the following:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving without the proper qualifications
  • Driving with an unauthorized passenger onboard
  • Failing to conduct pre-trip inspections and checks
  • Driving beyond the required hours of service regulations

If the truck driver is responsible for the damages caused by the accident, a claim may be filed against the truck driver’s insurance company. 

Mike Morse Law Firm’s truck accident lawyers can examine your case details and explain what your legal rights are in this situation. Our legal team will then be in a better position to form a plan to help you recover your losses.

When is a Truck Company Liable for Damages?

Although trucking companies may try to shift the blame to others, the company may also be liable for a truck accident if they failed to carry out their duty of care. Possible situations in which a company may be liable for damages might include:

  • Failing to hire a qualified truck driver
  • Failing to properly inspect the truck and equipment
  • Failing to adequately maintain and repair the vehicle and equipment
  • Failing to train the hired truck driver properly
  • Failing to properly supervise the truck driver
  • Placing unreasonable expectations on the truck driver

If both the truck driver and the trucking company share fault in the accident, you may be able to file a claim against both parties. Recovering your losses from multiple at-fault parties can be complicated. So, it is highly recommended to consult a qualified truck accident lawyer to find out how you can get the largest amount of compensation possible for your suffering.

Michigan’s No-Fault Insurance Coverage Laws

Michigan is a “no-fault” state. The law requires all Michigan motorists to carry no-fault auto insurance coverage. So if you are involved in a truck accident, your own insurance company can pay for your accident-related damages no matter who caused the crash. This can give accident victims some relief in knowing that their immediate medical expenses should be covered. 

Damages your no-fault insurance will usually cover include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Wage loss benefits
  • Replacement services
  • Damage to other people’s property

Michigan State changed the laws regarding auto insurance cover from July 2020. The new no-fault reform law affects the coverage options for vehicle owners in Michigan for their Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy. 

Michigan drivers may select from one of the following policy options:

  • Unlimited personal injury protection (PIP) coverage
  • PIP coverage up to $500,000
  • PIP coverage up to $250,000
  • PIP coverage up to $250,000 with certain medical exclusions (if you meet the criteria)
  • PIP coverage up to $50,000 (if you meet the criteria)
  • Opting out of PIP coverage completely (if you meet the criteria)

Liability Insurance for Commercial Trucks

Michigan requires commercial truck drivers to carry a certain amount of liability insurance. The amount of coverage depends on the type of cargo and the cargo’s destination. 

Below is a description of the minimum insurance requirements for:

  • Commercial trucks that travel within Michigan State
  • Commercial trucks that travel out of state

Michigan state insurance requirements for commercial trucks

Truck drivers who operate within Michigan, inter or intrastate, must carry the following minimum liability insurance coverage:

  • $300,000 for trucks carrying household goods
  • $750,000 for trucks carrying general freight
  • $1 million for trucks transporting oil
  • $5 million for hazardous materials

Federal insurance requirements for commercial trucks

Trucks that leave Michigan must carry the following minimum public liability coverage for interstate travel:

  • $750,000 to $5 million for bodily injury, property damage, and environmental restoration (depending on commodities transported)
  • $300,000 for non-hazardous freight (only for vehicles weighing under 10,001 pounds)
  • $5,000 cargo insurance for vehicles that carry household goods

Pursuing Compensation With Multiple Insurance Companies

Truck accidents can be quite devastating. Severe injuries may require extensive long-term treatment, possibly exceeding the coverage limits of your insurance. If this is the case, we may be able to pursue financial compensation from other at-fault parties. Determining liability can be complicated, especially when there are multiple parties involved.

Mike Morse Law Firm’s lawyers are well-versed in both federal and state laws that govern the truck industry. We know how to deal with insurance companies. If you hire us, we can negotiate to try to get you the maximum settlement amount for your damages. If necessary, our legal team can file a lawsuit on your behalf to ensure responsible parties are each held accountable for their negligence.

Contact a Qualified Truck Accident Lawyer for Legal Advice You Can Trust

If you have been involved in a truck accident, we know how unsettling it can be to identify the responsible parties and hold them accountable. But having a seasoned lawyer on your side can be beneficial in saving you time and energy and relieving you of much undue stress.

The Mike Morse team wants to help you get the answers you need to move forward with your life, no matter your current financial status. That’s why we offer Michigan residents quality legal representation for their truck accident concerns with no out-of-pocket or hidden fees. 

Mike Morse Law Firm has over 25 years of experience in defending personal injury victims. As Michigan’s largest personal injury firm, our experienced attorneys are prepared to use our extensive knowledge and resources to investigate the true working relationship between truck drivers and their trucking companies. 

We strive to hold all responsible parties accountable for their negligent actions. And above all, we go the distance for each of our clients in seeking the justice they deserve. Call us today at 855-MIKE-WINS to talk with one of our truck accident lawyers in a free consultation and learn more.

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