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Respondeat superior in truck accident cases

The large semi-trucks and tractor-trailers one sees driving in and around Clinton often cast a menacing shadow, as their potential for causing devastation in a collision with another vehicle can plainly be seen. The expenses that can arise from a truck accident can be enormous; sadly, according to information shared by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 116,000 accident victims in 2017 had to learn this the hard way. When assigning liability for a truck accident, many often wonder if liability lies only with the truck driver who caused the accident, or if it can also be extended to the truck company that employs them. 

Per the Cornell Law School, the legal principle of "respondeat superior" (Latin for "let the master answer") allows people to hold employers responsible for the actions of their employees. Given that insurance may not cover the entirety of a truck accident's expenses, victims should know in what cases liability can be shared between driver and employer. One might assume that as long as a driver is behind the wheel of vehicle used for commercial purposes (and is not an independent contractor, but rather an actual employee), then their employer would also be liable. Yet that is not always the case. 

For respondeat superior to apply to a truck accident case, the driver must have been operating within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred. "Within the scope of employment" typically includes actions undertaken while on the clock (like completing a delivery route). If, however, the truck driver is technically off the clock (e.g. looking for a place to have a meal or pull over to rest) when they cause an accident, then liability may lie with them and them alone. 

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