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Who is liable: the trucker or the carrier?

Say that you are traveling along one of the roads in or around Knoxville, and you are suddenly struck by a large semi-truck. You or your passengers, and given the massive size of the vehicle that struck you, there is likely significant damage to your own car. Suddenly, you are looking at medical expenses and repair costs which could easily exceed your auto insurance coverage limits. You may be left with little choice but to seek compensation. The question is who is responsible: the truck driver or the company he or she works for?

If he or she states that he or she is an independent contractor, you have your answer: liability lies solely with the driver. The same is true if the driver was off duty and was driving around looking for a bite to eat or a place to rest after having completed a route. In such a scenario, it may be difficult to argue that he or she was acting as an agent of his or her employer.

There is a legal concept that does allow vicarious liability to be assigned in such accidents, however. It is known as “respondeat superior.” According to the Legal Information Institute, states that an employer can be held liable for the actions of an employee that are done during the execution of his or her job responsibilities. Revisiting your truck accident, if the trucker was in the course of completing a delivery, such action qualifies as fulfilling this duties of his or her employment. Thus, in this situation, you may be able to hold his or her carrier responsible. Primary responsibility may still reside with the trucker, yet at least you know there is another potential source of compensation for you to pursue. 

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