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Who has financial responsibility for a semi-truck crash?

On Behalf of | Nov 13, 2023 | Personal Injury

The costs inspired by a motor vehicle collision typically exceed what the average person can easily pay. Most people don’t have enough in their savings accounts to cover their own expenses for more than a few months, let alone pay for another person’s lost wages and hospital bills in the event that they cause another’s harm.

Motorists usually rely on insurance to pay for vehicle repairs and medical costs if a crash occurs. When an at-fault motorist doesn’t have insurance or when the costs are so high that insurance proves insufficient, crash victims may need to take their case to court. They can file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who caused the crash. There might also be a third party, like a vehicle manufacturer, with a degree of responsibility for the collision that may be named as a party as well.

Sometimes, liability for a collision isn’t that simple because it involves a commercial vehicle. Someone operating an 18-wheeler or semi-truck might cause a wreck that results in massive injuries for the people in the other vehicles. Who would typically cover the costs of a semi-truck crash?

The employer is usually liable for crashes on the job

A portion of commercial truck drivers are their own bosses. They buy a truck and become an owner-operator. They are then responsible for the maintenance of their vehicle and financially culpable for any damages that they may cause if they are at fault for a wreck.

However, a significant percentage of commercial drivers are employees, not owner-operators. They work for a transportation company. Therefore, the company that hired them and that maintains the vehicle will be liable for the cost of any crash that occurs. The concept of vicarious liability or respondeat superior makes an employer financially and legally responsible for the errors and negligence of an employee performing their job.

The company may not need to directly cover crash costs. Typically, a semi-truck will have a very large insurance policy covering it. There will usually be at least $750,000 worth of liability coverage to reimburse people for medical expenses, lost wages and other costs. If a lawsuit is necessary, it will often be the trucking company that will face liability for the incident rather than the worker operating one of their trucks.

Understanding who is liable for a crash may make people a bit more comfortable with the thought of pursuing compensation through litigation after a collision caused by a semi-truck. Seeking legal guidance can provide that clarity.