One question that frequently comes up when discussing how a Maryland truck accident victim can recover for their injuries is whether the at-fault truck driver’s employer can also be held responsible. As is often the case with legal determinations, the answer depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident and the relationship between the parties.
Employers can be held vicariously liable for the negligent acts of their employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior. As a general matter, to establish an employer’s liability a plaintiff must show that the employee’s allegedly negligent actions were within the scope of their employment.
Under Maryland case law, courts look beyond the question of whether the employee’s actions occurred while the employee was working for the employer, and focus instead on whether the employee’s actions were in furtherance of the employer’s business. Simplified, courts look to whether the employee’s actions were incidental to their job. However, before courts get to this question the plaintiff must first establish that an employee/employer relationship existed. A recent case illustrates how this situation may arise.
According to the court’s opinion, a truck driver ran a stop sign and crashed into a car, killing three of the occupants inside. A subsequent investigation revealed that the truck driver had been on the road longer than permitted under applicable laws and had consumed alcohol within four hours of the accident.
The truck driver was paid by a logistics company. At the time of the accident, the truck driver was driving a truck displaying the logistics company’s logo. However, the logistics company had a business relationship with another brokerage firm through which the logistics company procured business. The brokerage firm would locate customers needing transport services and assign the job to the logistics company. As a part of the agreement, the logistics company would keep at least one driver on-call at all times, and would not work with other brokerage firms. The agreement also provided that the logistics company was responsible for hiring and training drivers, and would submit documentation indicating a driver had the appropriate permits.
The family members of those killed in the accident filed a claim against the brokerage firm, claiming that it was responsible for the negligence of the truck driver. However, the court concluded that the truck driver was an independent contractor of the brokerage firm, rather than an employee. In coming to this conclusion, the court considered the extent of control exercised over the details of the work, how the driver was paid, how long the driver had worked for the company, the customs of the industry and several other factors.
Needless to say, the determination of whether a truck driver is an employee or an independent contractor is highly fact-specific. Thus, anyone who has been injured in a Maryland truck accident should consult with a dedicated Maryland truck accident attorney as soon as possible.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Truck Accident?
If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a Maryland truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we have a decades-long history of zealously representing accident victims in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Rule of Evidence 403: A Question of Probative Value Versus Unfair Prejudice, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published January 4, 2019.
Using Circumstantial Evidence to Prove a Maryland Truck Accident Claim, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published December 26, 2018.