There are two basic ownership types of commercial rigs operating on California roads. First, there are owner-operator trucks that are both owned and driven by the same person. In the second type, the 18-wheeler is owned by a trucking company and driven by hired drivers.
In the first scenario, where the operator is also the owner of the semi-truck, it is relatively easier to establish responsibility for an accident. But the situation becomes complicated when the truck is being operated by a trucking company. In this case, an injured motorist may find it much difficult to establish fault on part of the trucking company and hold it responsible for injuries, damages, and losses.
Truck Accidents and California Agency Law
As the employer of a rig driver, a company can be held responsible for the negligence of the driver in causing an accident through the legal theory of agency. Three elements must be demonstrated for holding a company responsible for the actions or conduct of their employee, the truck driver.
- An employment relationship must exist between the company and the driver.
- At the time of the accident, the driver must have been acting within the scope of their employment.
- The driver must be operating the truck with the company’s express or implied permission at the time of the unfortunate occurrence.
Besides the theory of agency, a trucking company may also be held responsible for an accident if it fails to take reasonable care in hiring, supervising, or training their drivers.
Moreover, the responsibility can be fixed on a company under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) for the actions of its driver.
Truck Accidents: Third Parties and Truck Companies
Since the trucking company is the owner of the rig involved in an accident, it can be deemed at fault for a mishap in other situations as well. For example, there was a defect in the vehicle but the company let the driver operate the truck without getting it fixed. The truck manufacturer can also be held responsible for an accident along with the operating company in cases of manufacturing defects.
The responsibility for an accident can also be fixed on the trucking company if improper maintenance undertaken by a third-party service provider contributed to the accident.
In any case, the trucking company is bound to take all the care that is required to operate a rig. It is responsible to ensure safe conditions before running a vehicle on a roadway. The regulations regarding the skills and qualifications of the drivers are also very strict, and a company flouting any of the rules can be held responsible in case of an accident.