What is Vicarious Liability in a Truck Accident Case?


According to data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there are 10 states in the US where the highest number of fatal and injury-causing truck crashes occur.

California is one of them. If you’re a victim, you could sustain catastrophic bodily harm and your losses could be considerable.

Fortunately, California law allows you to recover compensation as the victim of a motor vehicle accident.

However, where you might expect that you have a claim against the driver, you may be able to seek compensation from additional parties under the theory of vicarious liability.

A Los Angeles truck accident lawyer can explain in more detail and describe the elements of vicarious liability. Some general information about this legal concept may also be helpful.

Overview of Truck Accident Cases

When a motor vehicle crash happens, it’s usually because someone was careless behind the wheel. In the practice of law, these cases are based upon negligence and there are certain elements you need to prove to recover compensation.

For a truck accident, you must show that:

  1. The truck driver had a legal duty to operate the vehicle safely;
  2. That person breached this duty by driving carelessly or recklessly;
  3. The breach of duty was the cause of the accident in which you were injured; and,
  4. You suffered losses because of your injuries.

In a successful case, you can obtain monetary damages for a wide range of losses, including:

  • Medical costs for treatment, such as emergency care, surgery, physical therapy, and related expenses;
  • Lost wages, if your injuries prevent you from working;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Scarring and disfigurement;
  • Loss of consortium;
  • Emotional distress; and,
  • Many others depending on your circumstances.

Vicarious Liability Elements

From the above four elements, you can see that negligence-based cases focus on the actions of the driver. In a truck accident, there’s an additional factor: The driver’s relationship with an employer, owner, or other party involved with operating the truck.

This secondary liability is called “vicarious” because it places responsibility for a truck accident upon another party. Under this concept, you can file a claim against the employer, principal, partner, or other entity by meeting the following elements of vicarious liability:

  1. The truck driver was working under the secondary party’s control and direction;
  2. The secondary party had authority over the driver’s actions; and,
  3. The truck driver was acting within the scope of employment when the accident occurred.

To recover compensation, you must prove these three elements AND the four basic elements of negligence. If you can meet these requirements, you can pursue the truck driver’s employer, the truck owner, a partnership or syndicate that operates the truck, and other parties that can legally be responsible under vicarious liability.

Reasons Your Truck Accident Injury Claim May Be Denied

As with other motor vehicle accidents, you would usually seek compensation for your losses by filing a claim with an insurance company. Insurers are businesses focused on profits, which suffer when they pay out compensation to victims like you. Therefore, the claims adjuster will look for reasons to avoid paying for your losses. Potential grounds for denying your claim may include:

  • Lack of Evidence: Even when it seems clear that you’ve met the four elements of a negligence case and the three elements of vicarious liability, an insurance company may contest the sufficiency of the evidence. For instance, the claims adjuster may dispute the severity of your injuries because you didn’t provide thorough medical records.
  • Comparative Negligence: A claims adjuster may try to blame the truck accident on you under the concept of comparative negligence. If you’re partially responsible for causing the crash, this rule provides that your compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to you.
  • Detour and Frolic Rule: An exception to vicarious liability, the detour and frolic theory could eliminate the truck driver’s employer as a party. The rule states that the employer is not liable where the employee was using the vehicle for his or her own purposes – as opposed to performing tasks within the scope of employment. For instance, a truck driver may clock out or deviate from the route for personal reasons. That individual could stop to go shopping or to see family.

Contact a Los Angeles Truck Accident Attorney Regarding Vicarious Liability Cases

If you have questions about the elements of vicarious liability in a truck accident case, please contact Starpoint Law. We can schedule a free consultation to review your circumstances and determine a strategy for pursuing all parties that could be liable for your losses.

Author Photo

Aidin Ghavimi

Aidin is a partner at Starpoint LC, Attorneys at Law, and focuses on personal injury and employment law cases in and around Southern California. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the Loyola School of Law and his Bachelor’s from USC. Aidin’s primary goal is to bring justice to his clients and to ensure they are able to move on with their lives after a serious injury.

Rate this Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars