Can a Broker or Shipper Be Liable for a Truck Wreck?June 7, 2017
Whether a broker or shipper can be negligent and liable for a truck accident will depend on various factors, including:
- The exact cause(s) of the truck accident – If the (in)action(s) of a truck driver contributed to a wreck, the trucker and possibly a trucking company, a broker and/or a shipper may be liable.
- The relationship between the broker/shipper and the trucker.
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Determining the Relationship between Brokers/Shippers & Truck Drivers
Brokers or shippers can have different employment relationships with truck drivers. The precise nature of this relationship will be critical to determining the degree of control a broker/shipper has over a truck driver and, consequently, whether the broker/shipper can be liable for the trucker’s actions (or lack of action).
In general, the two types of employment relationships that a broker/shipper and trucker can have include:
- A principal-agent relationship – This is a consensual relationship in which the broker or shipper is the “principal” and the trucker is the “agent.” In this relationship, the principal has the right to control the agent’s conduct by, for example, setting parameters for how and when a delivery should be made. The agent will have the power to affect a principal’s legal relations.
- An independent contractor relationship – In this relationship, the trucker (or “owner operator”) will be an independent contractor who is under contract produce a given result (i.e., make a delivery). When it comes to performing the work, however, the broker or shipper does not have the authority to control precisely how the work is conducted. In this relationship, the trucker would not impact the legal relations of the broker or shipper. This can motivate brokers and shippers to hire truck drivers as independent contractors in order to limit their liability should a truck wreck happen.
Here, it’s important to point out that a contract between a broker/shipper and a truck driver will not necessarily provide an accurate definition of the relationship between these parties. In particular, even if a truck driver is classified as an independent contractor according to the terms of a contract:
- The trucker may have been misclassified.
- The trucker may actually have a principal-agent relationship with the broker/shipper, based on how the relationship actually plays out (during the course of employment).
In other words, all of the circumstances and actions related to the relationship between the broker/shipper and the truck driver are central to determining whether:
- A principal-agent relationship exists.
- A broker/shipper will be vicariously liable for a truck accident involving a trucker driver they have under contract.
How to Prove Broker or Shipper Negligence & Liability for Truck Crashes
Various evidence may be helpful to proving that a principal-agent relationship exists between a broker/shipper and a truck driver – and, consequently, that a broker or shipper is negligent and liable for a crash. Some examples of this evidence include:
- The original contract between the broker/shipper and the truck driver
- Truckers’ log books
- Shipping or cargo receipts
- Records maintained by the broker or shipper
- Copies (or recordings) of communications between the broker/shipper and trucker.
When it comes to proving broker or shipper negligence for a truck accident, the bottom line is that this aspect of truck wreck claims can be:
- Complicated and may involve critical discovery
- Pivotal to protecting the value of a truck wreck claim and to find any possible financial recoveries for victims.
Get Experienced Help Recovering from a Truck Wreck: Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm
A truck accident lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm is ready to review your potential claim and explain your rights and options for proceeding. Call (713) 352-7975 or email our firm to schedule a free initial consultation with us and take the first step towards recovery.
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Skilled and experienced, we have the insight and resources you can rely on for effective representation in any truck accident case. We can provide you with exceptional advocacy while helping you bring your claim to the best possible resolution.