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Who is liable in a commercial vehicle accident?

Many commercial vehicles travel Ohio's busy roads every day. When the driver of a commercial vehicle causes an accident, there may be other potential defendants, such as the driver's employer. The victim must show that the driver's employer is responsible for their injuries under the legal theory of respondeat superior, which is a Latin phrase meaning, "let the master answer."

An employer is liable only if the acts of its employees were unintentional and were committed within the scope of employment. It must first be shown that the employer exercised sufficient control over the employee to establish an employment relationship. If the employee was an independent contractor for a large company, it can be more difficult to establish liability.

Next, it must be shown that the acts of the driver were unintentional. Personal injury cases are based on negligence; therefore, the injured party must show that the defendant's failure to exercise reasonable care, and not the defendant's intentional acts, caused their injuries. Finally, the driver must have caused the accident while performing duties within the scope of their employment.

Whether an act was within the scope of employment is generally determined on a case-by-case basis, however, common factors taken into consideration include: whether the employee was on the clock, whether the employee's actions were authorized by the employer, whether the employee was advancing their own interest or the interest of their employer by performing the act, and whether the employee's actions could be reasonably expected given their duties. If an employee is acting within the scope of their employment when they negligently cause a crash, their employer may be responsible for the victims' injuries resulting from the car accident.

Source: FindLaw, "Truck Accident Overview," accessed January 19, 2018

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