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When is a truck company liable for injuries in an accident?

In a collision between a large tractor-trailer truck and a small passenger vehicle, people in the smaller vehicle often suffer serious injuries. If the truck driver was negligent, under Montana law the injured victims have the right to sue that driver for damages. But, what about the truck driver's employer? When do injured truck accident victims have the right to bring a claim against the truck company?

Fortunately for the victims, truck companies will be liable in virtually all cases in which one of their drivers negligently caused an accident. This is because of a legal doctrine called "respondeat superior," which means "let the master answer." Under respondeat superior, a truck company will be liable for any injuries caused by its driver's negligence, as long as the truck driver was operating one of the company's vehicles in the course of employment.

A truck company can also be liable for its own negligence, independently of any negligence of the driver. For example, if the company negligently failed to maintain the truck's brakes and a brake failure on the highway caused an accident, the company will be liable for any injuries that result. Commercial trucking companies are subject to a host of federal safety regulations, and a violation that results in injury can make the company liable in a personal injury lawsuit.

Suing a trucking company can mean that additional financial resources are available to compensate an injured victim. On the other hand, the deep pockets of trucking companies and their insurers sometimes means they defend personal injury claims aggressively. An injured victim can level the playing field by getting the right information about federal trucking regulations.

Source:, "Vicarious Liability and Negligent Entrustment," accessed Dec. 10, 2016

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