What Needs to be Proven in a Virginia Truck Accident Claim

Typically what you need to prove in a truck accident claim is that the defendant driver failed to use ordinary care in driving and caused an accident, which resulted in damages to the injured person. You need to show:

  • A duty owed by the driver
  • A breach of that duty
  • That the injured person suffered damages
  • That those damages were caused by the defendant’s breach of their duty

Duty, breach, causation, and damages are the basic elements of negligence. So, the duty is what we talked about previously the duty to exercise ordinary care. You’ve got to exercise ordinary care and that’s ordinary care under the circumstances.

Difference Between Liability For Cars and Trucks

What’s required of a driver of a truck that’s carrying a big load might be a little bit different than what’s required of somebody who’s driving a Volkswagen Beetle. For instance, that Beetle can stop a lot faster and requires less ground to do so. However, just because one vehicle is a lot bigger and needs more space to stop doesn’t mean that the truck driver gets a break because it’s just harder to stop their truck, they need to be more vigilant and make sure that they can stop their truck in time. You need to be able to prove those four elements of negligence in most cases. Now, if you’re pursuing a different cause of action, the elements change, but typically that’s what you need to prove in any auto accident case.

Liability of Employer in Truck Accident Cases

Another thing that comes up with truck accident cases is the issue of liability as it relates to the employer or some other corporate entity. Usually there you‘re going to have to show that the driver was acting in the scope and course of their employment. So, if a delivery driver is out on the road and they drive a block out of the way to get a cup of coffee, that’s most – much more likely to be treated at still within the scope and course of their employment even though they went a little bit out of the way, as opposed to if they drive and make a delivery and then drive five miles out of the way to go see a buddy in prison and then they come back to the highway. That one is not going to be found to be in the scope and course of employment.

Those are extreme examples to kind of show the contrast there, but that’s definitely something important to consider if you’re trying to hold the employer vicariously liable through respondeat superior, what it’s called in Virginia, the employment or agency relationship is vital to proving the liability of the principal or the employer or company. A lot of other states simply call it vicarious liability, but the important thing is if that’s what you’re trying to show, that a company or employer should be responsible for the negligence of their employees, you need to be able to show that the person who was negligent, the employee, was acting for the most part in furtherance of their employer’s interests, doing the job they were hired to do.

How to Determine Employer Liability

The scope and course of the employment boils down to the basic question of whether the employee was acting for their employer, which can include questions of whether the employer retained any right of control over the employee, whether the employee was acting for their own benefit of that of their employer, whether they were using their authority and their position to gain specific access to a victim or to a means to commit a crime or something like that. Every case is different, you need to go through different factual analyses to establish this, but in trucking cases it is usually more straightforward than some of the factors just mentioned.

Those are basically the things you would need to show to prove a trucking case, to prove the elements of negligence and be able to prove that if you’re trying to pursue damages through a theory of respondent superior you basically have to show that the driver was acting in the scope and course of their employment at the time of the collision.

What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make in Truck Accident Claims?

Delaying seeking treatment, having gaps in treatment, failing to follow their doctor’s orders, failing to show up for appointments, all those things are going to be harmful to your case. Especially in trucking cases if you give a recorded statement, that’s’ really usually going to be harmful if you give a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance carrier.

Some of the other mistakes that people make are they fail to take down information about the people involved and vehicle status as far who the vehicle purports to be owned by or operated by and who the actual driver is because a lot of the time a driver will be working for a company that leases the trucks to some other company that works for a company and is carrying a load for somebody else or something like that and it gets very complex very quickly with lots of different entities potentially being responsible. And the more info you can get as early as possible, the better chance you’re going to have in prevailing in claims against all of the at-fault parties.