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Is the delivery company or the driver liable for accident claims?

With more and more people shopping online throughout the year for everything from shoes to groceries, the delivery truck is a common sight in just about every neighborhood these days.

Those delivery drivers are under a lot of pressure to make deliveries on time, which means that an individual driver may be clocking in long hours and a lot of miles on any given day. Fatigue and frustration can easily lead to an accident.

If you've been in an accident with a delivery truck and it wasn't your fault, is it the other driver's responsibility to pay for your injuries or the delivery company's responsibility?

It depends on the situation. While the delivery driver obviously bears some sort of responsibility for the accident, there's a provision in the law that put a vicarious liability on the driver's employer for the negligent actions of their on-the-job employees. If the driver was on the clock and working, it's likely that the company, not the driver, will have to pay for your injuries.

The logic behind this provision in the law is simple: Whenever there's a question about who should take responsibility for an accident, it puts the economic burden on the entity or person who can ultimately afford to bear it best.

Sometimes you run into a problem with claims against delivery companies, however. For example, if the driver regularly takes an unpaid lunch and he forgot to put the emergency brakes on while he parked on a hill to eat or take a nap and the truck slipped out of place, the company may try to avoid liability by saying that the driver was on his own time and therefore wholly responsible for any injuries. Similarly, imagine the driver was at the end of his shift and stopped to run through a drive-thru to grab a burger before returning his truck. If he hit you on the way out of the drive-thru, his employer may try to claim that he wasn't acting in the course of his employment, which would relieve the employer of liability.

Lawsuits involving delivery truck accidents can rapidly become complex if the company decides that the facts of the case should relieve it of responsibility. An attorney can help you learn more about your legal options.

Source: FindLaw, "Vicarious Liability and Negligent Entrustment," accessed Jan. 12, 2017

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