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Vicarious Liability in Indiana Truck Accidents

When someone is injured in an Indiana truck accident, they may have two avenues of recourse: one against the negligent driver who caused the wreck, and another against the driver’s employer. This second form of liability is what is called “vicarious liability.” There there are certain cases where an employer can be held liable for their employee’s actions if they were performed while doing work for the employer. Indiana accident victims may want to bring suit against both parties particularly in situations where the negligent driver might not have enough money to pay for the resulting damage on their own. If the total cost of the accident is $100,000, for example, but the defendant is only able to pay $50,000, the plaintiff may still end up in debt even after a successful suit. Thus, it is in plaintiffs’ best interests to always file a vicarious liability claim if they have one.

Because it is such a powerful doctrine, there are limitations to vicarious liability. Generally, the doctrine does not apply when the alleged “employee” is actually an independent contractor. A recent Illinois state case illustrates this point and its practical implications for Indiana plaintiffs. According to the court’s written opinion, a mother and daughter were driving in Illinois when they were severely injured after being rear-ended by a tractor-trailer that was en route to Indiana. Afterward, the two filed a civil negligence suit against the driver and the two companies that contracted with him, alleging vicarious liability. The defendant companies filed a motion for summary judgment in response, arguing that the driver was an independent contractor, not an agent of the company, meaning the suit against them had to be dropped. The lower court granted their motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the court affirmed the grant of summary judgment. The court relied heavily on the written contract between the driver and the companies contracting with him. Specifically, the contract explicitly stated that the driver had full control over his operational costs and equipment and was an “independent contractor.” Because the company did not have sufficient control over the driver, they could not be held liable for his negligent driving, meaning that summary judgment was appropriate. As a result, the plaintiffs could only seek compensation from the negligent driver.

Contact an Indiana Personal Injury Lawyer

In the aftermath of an Indiana truck accident, you may be unsure of where to turn for help. Contact the personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Paterson Kruse today to speak with one of our dedicated and experienced attorneys. We have decades of collective experience in Indiana personal injury law and pride ourselves on excellent client representation. When you work with us, you can rest easy knowing that we are working tirelessly to defend your legal rights and earn you the compensation that you deserve. To learn more, call us today at 888-532-7766 to schedule a free initial consultation. Calling is risk-free, as we will not bill you for our services unless we can help you recover.

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