The damages that result from an accident with a semi-truck or tractor-trailer in Georgia can be massive. Often, accident victims are left with little choice but to seek compensation from those responsible due to auto insurance payouts not covering all of their expenses. Liability can certainly be placed on truckers who cause accidents, yet what about the companies they work for? Given that truckers are acting as the agents of motor carriers, then one might assume that those companies should share in the liability.
The legal principle of respondeat superior allows for this. Per the Cornell Law School, “respondeat superior” is defined as a form of vicarious liability assigned to employers for accidents caused by employees while those employees are in the course of fulfilling their job responsibilities. In the case of a truck driver, if he or she causes an accident while completing a delivery or route, it can certainly be argued that such actions are within the course of his or her employment. This would (in theory) allow accident victims to also seek compensation from the motor carriers that the truckers work for.
There is one challenge, however, in applying respondeat superior to truck accidents: truck drivers are often classified by their employers as independent contractors. This may excuse companies from liability for any accidents those driving for them cause. Yet many argue that this is a misclassification, and recent federal court rulings have agreed. Indeed, according the website Trucks.com, cases recently argued in multiple states have resulted in decisions classifying truckers as employees rather than independent contractors. Should this trend continue, it may not only open the door for truck drivers to enjoy dedicated employee benefits, but also allow more truck accident victims to seek compensation for damages from truck companies.