How does respondeat superior apply to truck accidents?
After having been involved in a truck accident in Los Angeles, you could potentially find yourself facing inordinate expenses. The massive size of semi-trucks and tractor-trailers lends to devastating results of whatever accidents such vehicles cause. The combination of medical bills and repair costs could amount to expenses far exceeding whatever might be available through insurance reimbursement. If that is the case, you may have little choice but to seek compensation from whoever was responsible for the accident. The question then becomes with who does responsibility ultimately lie: with the truck driver or the company that employs them?
Typically, the actions that lead to a car accident are the sole responsibility of the one who committed them. Yet in the case of a truck driver, a strong argument may be made that they would never have been in a position to hit you had they not had to fulfill the obligations of their employer. The legal doctrine that allows you to assign liability to an employer for the actions of its employees is known as respondeat superior.
Per the Cornell Law School, respondeat superior applies only in those cases where an employee’s actions are within the scope of their employment. In the case of your accident, its application would depend on whether the driver was performing a work-related function at the time it occurred. A truck driver completing a route or returning to their base of operations could certainly be said to be fulfilling duties related to their employment. If your accident occurred under such circumstances, the truck company employing the driver would be liable. The same cannot be said if the driver was performing tasks while off the clock.