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Who bears liability after a truck accident?

Earlier on our Berks County legal blog, we summarized the events surrounding a recent multi-vehicle crash in which a Pennsylvania woman lost her life. One of the vehicles -- the one that hit her car from behind -- was a dump truck, or in other words, a commercial vehicle.

What difference does it make when a commercial vehicle is involved in an accident, versus a passenger vehicle? The answer is that additional parties besides just the driver may be liable, and therefore victims may be able to pursue compensation above and beyond what they might otherwise have obtained. Let's look at how this is determined.

An important question will be whether the truck driver was driving in the course of employment. If they were on the job at the time of the accident, following the instructions of their employer, the company employing them may be held vicariously liable for the accident. However, the company may be able to avoid liability if the driver was taking an unauthorized detour (to visit a friend or do some shopping, for example) that wasn't related to his or her work.

Other parties may also be identified as potentially liable. For example, if the driver's employer is someone other than the truck owner or truck company, the employer may also be responsible. Contractor relationships, however, may allow defendants some opportunity to muddy the waters surrounding liability.

The more defendants there are, ultimately, the greater the potential for victims to recover for their pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses. Particularly in a trucking accident situation, a personal injury professional will be an important asset in making the case for maximum compensation.

Source: Findlaw.com, "What is Truck Accident Law?," accessed on Oct. 20, 2017

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