One of the most common questions that come up when truck accidents occur is: who is legally responsible? The short answer is that yes, you can sue the trucking company in North Carolina. However, there are multiple factors taken into consideration in determining who is deemed responsible or liable for compensating the accident victims for their losses in North Carolina. Here the attorneys of Dewey, Ramsay & Hunt, P.A., explain some of the most common issues that come up when clients seek advice regarding the possible defendants for injuries caused when someone gets hit by a truck.
Why Is Determining the Defendant Complicated in North Carolina?
Determining if there is a cause of action against a truck company can be complicated in truck accidents having multiple “tortfeasors;” that means, there can be various individuals and entities carrying different percentages of legal responsibility for the injuries. Pursuant to North Carolina’s Uniform Contribution Among Tort-Feasors Act, there are legal actions against each party who carries a “pro-rata” or apportioned share of legal responsibility in North Carolina. This legal rule is unique to North Carolina in that it doesn’t allow an apportionment of payment based on the percentage of fault. The practical effect of this law is that only one monetary award will be valid for all tortfeasors. The person who files the lawsuit or plaintiff will not have to seek payment from each tortfeasor individually. However, when a plaintiff accepts a settlement from another party, the final calculation is reduced by the settlement amount. This rule has other technical and strategic implications an attorney will consider at the time of filing a lawsuit. For example, the ability to receive compensation from a single party sometimes increases the chance of getting full recovery. An attorney can review these factors with you to determine if you can sue the truck company.
When Can I Sue The Trucking Company?
You can generally sue the trucking company in North Carolina as long as the driver was not an “independent contractor.” The approach to determining whether a driver is an independent contractor in North Carolina depends on the actual relationship between the trucking company and the driver—the question is whether the trucking company has control over performance methods. Independent contractors typically aren’t required to follow specific methods of delivery and have no responsibility other than the result.
Even if the driver is called an independent contractor agreement, make sure to talk to an attorney because there are instances when independent contractor contracts carry little to no weight from a legal perspective in North Carolina, especially in negligence cases involving truck drivers. Some of the factors taken into consideration include:
- The time and place of the accident and whether the driver was on route to delivering the goods or having personal time.
- The level of freedom given to the employee including the scheduling and dressing requirements.
- Whether the trucking company was involved in hiring, training, supervising, and entrusting the driver with the assigned duties.
Trucking Company Laws & Liability in North Carolina?
Tort Law is the primary legal basis for suing truck companies. Negligence is the area of torts law applied in these cases. The driver’s imprudence or negligent acts in the course of his or her employment with a truck company can constitute a basis of liability.
Negligence “per se” is a legal theory where liability or legal responsibility is imposed when injuries are caused in the course of violating a statute or regulation. For example, truck drivers in North Carolina are required to operate trucks in compliance with the rules of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. When a driver violates these rules, the truck company can be held liable in negligence “per se” for the accidents the driver causes.
Federal and state regulations are in place to ensure that the truck driver is qualified and can drive a truck safely. Also, there are logbook regulations in North Carolina. These log books are created to prevent accidents caused by over-exerted drivers. North Carolina also has an office of Motor Carrier Enforcement that monitors whether these logbooks are adequately maintained and ensures compliance in weighing trucks and other enforcement activities intended to reduce all types of collisions with trucks.
Here, we discuss at greater length the legal theory related to independent contractors. Employers are vicariously liable for the negligent acts of the employees in North Carolina. In terms of negligence, this means that the trucking company can be found negligence when the driver: (1) fails to exercise due care; (2) caused an injury as a result of breaching the duty of due care. Truck companies are expected to demand that drivers operate trucks safely and take precautions to protect hazardous cargo. When the employer is legally required to institute policies and guidelines to promote safe driving, ‘vicarious liability’ can be imposed if the driver fails to take proper precautions and safeguards as part of the truck driver’s work responsibilities. In North Carolina, the employer’s actions are the same as the trucking company or carrier. This rule can also apply to other parties depending on the circumstances.
Can I File a Lawsuit Against an Out-of-State Trucking Company?
You can still file a lawsuit in North Carolina even if the trucking company is based out-of-state because North Carolina courts have a system of laws in place that will allow you to file lawsuits in these situations. This legal aspect can get very technical. Your attorney will help you navigate throughout this aspect of the legal representation.
Charlotte, NC Truck Accident Lawyers Offering Free Consultations
The accomplished team of attorneys working at Dewey Ramsay & Hunt, Pa are skilled in reviewing nuanced questions in complicated in truck cases. To learn more about lawsuits against trucking companies after being hit in North Carolina, call to make an appointment with the skilled team of attorneys of Dewey Ramsay & Hunt, PA. Call (704) 490-4023 to schedule a consultation.