According to the National Safety Council (NSC), approximately 117,300 large trucks were involved in injury-causing crashes in 2021. While many of those drivers worked for a trucking company with the insurance and resources to pay compensation, many others were self-employed.
If you are unlucky enough to get into a crash with a self-employed truck driver, you may have concerns about potential compensation limitations. However, the compensation outcome isn’t solely determined by the driver’s employment status.
Read on to find out how self-employed truck driver insurance impacts your claim, how multiple liable parties can add another layer of complexity, and how an experienced Indiana truck crash lawyer can help you get maximum compensation.
The Role of Insurance Coverage
Insurance coverage is critical in truck accidents, providing financial protection to both truck drivers and victims involved in collisions. Accidents involving large commercial trucks can have devastating consequences, making adequate insurance coverage vital for covering medical expenses, property damage, and other related costs.
Compared to the hefty trucking insurance minimums required for commercial companies, self-employed truck drivers may not need to carry as much insurance, depending on what kind of hauling they are doing. Furthermore, while big companies can afford to purchase more than the minimum policy and often do so to protect their themselves from personal liability after a crash involving one of their trucks or drivers, an independent owner-operator may not be able to afford more than the minimum.
Unfortunately, while minimum coverage satisfies the legal requirements, it can often fail to cover all damages in a severe accident. Victims may need to explore other avenues, such as personal injury lawsuits, to receive additional compensation.
Self-Employed Truck Drivers and Liability
When an accident occurs involving a self-employed truck driver, you need to determine liability before you can receive compensation. However, determining liability can be complicated. Self-employed truck drivers carry unique liability in accidents, as they often act as both the vehicle operator and the business owner.
Several factors come into play when evaluating liability in a truck accident involving a self-employed truck driver:
- Negligence: Negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care, ultimately leading to the accident. Examples of negligence in truck accidents include distracted driving, speeding, driving under the influence, fatigue, and inadequate vehicle maintenance.
- Vehicle maintenance: Self-employed truck drivers are responsible for ensuring that their vehicles are properly maintained and safe to operate. The driver may be liable if the accident was caused by a mechanical failure due to poor maintenance.
- Hours of service (HOS) compliance: Truck drivers, including self-employed drivers, must adhere to federal and state regulations regarding their working hours and mandatory rest periods. The driver could be liable if the accident was caused by driver fatigue due to HOS violations.
Multiple Parties at Fault in Truck Accidents
In truck accidents involving self-employed drivers, liability isn’t always limited to the driver. Identifying other liable parties is crucial to ensuring victims receive fair compensation.
When a driver is an employee rather than self-employed, employers can be held responsible for their employees’ actions while performing job-related tasks. However, even in cases where the driver is self-employed, other parties can still be potentially liable. This allows victims to seek additional compensation from those responsible, such as:
- Loading personnel: Those responsible for loading the vehicle can share liability if improper loading leads to an accident. For example, if cargo is improperly secured and shifts during transit, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle, the individuals responsible for loading may be liable for negligence in ensuring safe cargo placement and restraint.
- Vehicle manufacturer: In the event of a mechanical failure contributing to the accident, the vehicle manufacturer could be implicated in producing a defective product.
- Road maintenance entities: Entities responsible for road maintenance might share liability if inadequate road conditions, such as lack of signage or poorly maintained or designed roads contributed to the accident.
- Truck parts manufacturers: Manufacturers of specific vehicle components, such as tires or brakes, could be held accountable if a part failure contributes to the accident.
Get the Compensation You Deserve
If you have been in a truck accident with a self-employed driver, an experienced lawyer from Wagner Reese can review your case and help determine liability to get maximum compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation to explore your legal options.