Who Do I Sue If a Delivery Trucks Injures Me While On The Job?
Federal laws establish an 8,000-pound gross weight limit for semis carrying a full load and traveling on interstates or crossing state lines. States impose their own weight limits — which may be higher — for trucks operating on non-federal highways and roads. Smaller truck classes have lower weight limits, and delivery trucks can run the full range of classes.
When a commercial vehicle strikes a passenger vehicle, the potential for injuries is high, especially if the truck is loaded with heavy cargo. If you received injuries from a delivery truck accident, you understandably want fair compensation for your losses. Determining who to sue in a truck accident is challenging. When the accident occurs while you are on the job, it gets even trickier.
When Can You Sue for an On-the-Job Truck Accident?
State workers’ compensation laws govern when you can sue for an on-the-job injury. If you sustain physical harm at work, your first avenue for compensation is your employer’s workers’ comp insurance. Generally, these laws prevent workers from suing the company they work for if they have a work accident that leads to injuries. The employee does not have to establish that it was the employer’s fault in order to receive benefits.
If the delivery truck driver that hit you was an employee of the company you work for, you could not sue your employer for damages. Instead, you would file a workers’ comp claim. In Michigan, as in most other states, workers’ comp benefits pay for all reasonable medical treatment for as long as you need them and a percentage of wages beginning a week after the accident and continuing for as long as you can’t work.
However, you may be able to file a legal claim for the injuries you sustained if something other than driver negligence contributed to the accident, even though the driver is one of your coworkers. Additionally, if the delivery truck driver was not an employee of the company you work for, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the driver or another third party. Who you can sue in a truck accident depends on which parties are liable.
Who Counts as an Employee?
Determining whether the driver is an employee is not always obvious. If your company owns the delivery truck and the driver only drives for the company, the individual is an employee. However, if the driver is an independent contractor who owns the truck and delivers to multiple businesses or locations, the person is not an employee.
A subcontracted driver may not be an employee if the individual meets the criteria for a sole proprietor with no employees. Finding out whether the driver falls under workers’ compensation laws may require some research and knowledge of how to interpret the laws.
Who Might Be Liable in a Truck Accident?
Commercial truck accidents are often complex. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides safety and regulatory oversight for any commercial vehicle operating on federal roadways or doing business across state lines. The FMCSA establishes responsibilities and safety requirements across the trucking industry. If the delivery driver and the company the individual works for are subject to these federal guidelines, any negligent party within the industry might be liable for the accident that caused your injuries, including:
- Driver: Many truck accidents are the result of driver negligence.
- Trucking company: A motor carrier is responsible for ensuring drivers receive adequate training, maintain safe driving behaviors, understand the laws and don’t drive more than the legally allocated time limitations. Additionally, the motor carrier is responsible for keeping up with truck maintenance and repair. The company may be at least partially at fault if the motor carrier fails in any of its responsibilities.
- Cargo loaders: When a delivery truck carries heavy cargo, the law requires loaders to balance the load and secure it following strict guidelines. Failure to do so can cause the load to shift and the driver to lose control of the truck, in which case the cargo loaders would be at least partially liable.
- Manufacturers: Truck and parts manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure product safety. A mechanical or parts failure may result from a faulty part or product. If so, the product manufacturer might be held accountable.
- Maintenance and repair companies: If a party outside of the motor carrier performs maintenance and repairs on the truck and is negligent in performing the maintenance or repairs, they may be partially responsible. However, they can only be held accountable if they performed or were hired to perform maintenance or repairs on a truck component that failed and caused the accident.
With so many potential factors involved in a delivery truck accident, determining who to sue requires significant research and knowledge of the commercial trucking industry and relevant laws. When an accident occurs on the job, further understanding of workers’ compensation laws is also needed.
A truck accident lawyer with experience handling these cases can analyze the facts and determine who you can sue. The attorney will assess whether and how workers’ compensation laws come into play and if parties other than the driver may be liable.
How Do You Prove Liability?
In any personal injury lawsuit, proving liability requires establishing that another party’s negligence caused the accident that led to your injuries. In a delivery truck accident, you would need to demonstrate negligence for any party not covered under workers’ compensation laws. Proof of negligence contains the following four elements:
- Duty of care: The individual or company is responsible for engaging in behaviors or taking actions that won’t cause you harm.
- Breach of duty: The individual or company did not fulfill their legal obligation.
- Accident causation: The breach of duty caused or contributed to the accident.
- Actual injury: The accident caused you verifiable harm.
You must be able to establish all four elements to prove negligence. However, more than one party is often negligent in a delivery truck accident, and you must prove that each party you sue was negligent. Furthermore, your role in the accident impacts the outcome as well. The defense will do its best to pin as much of the blame on you as possible.
Can You Lose a Lawsuit if You Share Liability?
If your own actions contributed to the delivery truck accident, it could significantly impact the outcome of your case. Most states have a contributory negligence law, and most follow a modified contributory negligence rule. Michigan falls in the latter category.
When you are partially responsible for the accident, you can recover economic damages equal to the other party’s liability. If you pursue non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, the amount you can recover works the same as for economic damages unless you are more than 50% liable. In this case, the state prohibits you from collecting any non-economic damages.
Can an Attorney Help With On-the-Job Delivery Truck Accidents?
At Mike Morse Law Firm, we understand the challenges involved in workplace accidents. We also have an in-depth understanding of workers’ compensation laws and the trucking industry and its laws. We aim to pursue every possible outcome to help you secure the compensation you deserve. Get in touch with us today to schedule a free case evaluation. We won’t collect any payment until we win your case.