How to Know if You Should Sue the Truck Driver or Company in an Accident
Oklahoma allows you to sue both the driver and the company
You should sue the company because you can collect more money from the company than you can collect from the driver
You should also sue the driver because you can collect more information from the driver if he’s a party to the case.
If you are the victim of an accident involving a truck driver, you may wonder: Should I sue the driver, or the company who employed him?
You should sue both.
Doctrine of Respondeat Superior
Oklahoma, like most American jurisdictions, recognizes the doctrine of respondeat superior. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, you may sue an employer for the conduct of an employee if the employee committed the misconduct “in the course of the employment and within the scope of the employee's authority.”
Thus, if a truck driver caused an accident while running an errand for his employer, the truck driver caused the accident in the course of his employment and within the scope of the driver’s authority. So, you may sue the truck driver’s employer under the doctrine of respondeat superior.
Doctrine of Negligent Entrustment
Another legal principle, that could potentially allow you to sue the company, is the doctrine of “negligent entrustment.” The Oklahoma Supreme Court has held,
"Negligent entrustment of an automobile occurs when the automobile is supplied, directly or through a third person, for the use of another whom the supplier knows, or should know, because of youth, inexperience, or otherwise, is likely to use it in a manner involving unreasonable risk of bodily harm to others, with liability for the harm caused thereby."
So, if a truck driver’s employer knew that the driver was not competent to drive the truck and allowed him to driver the truck anyway, you may sue the employer for negligent entrustment. For example, if the company was aware that the truck driver was intoxicated and allowed him to drive the truck anyway, the company was negligent in entrusting the truck to the driver. In this case, you may sue the company.
Negligent entrustment won’t allow you to sue the company in all cases; negligent entrustment will only allow you to sue the company if there was a specific reason why the company was negligent in allowing the driver to use their truck.
Should You Sue the Driver’s Employer?
Because you are allowed to sue the driver’s employer, you should sue them. This is because the employer likely has more money than the driver himself, and you could therefore collect a larger judgment. If you only sue the driver, then, you would likely collect from the driver’s insurance company. But, most insurance companies have policy limits, and the insurance companies will not pay you any amount higher than the company’s policy limit. In Oklahoma, a motor vehicle must be insured with a policy limit of at least
$25,000 for bodily injury or death to one person in one accident;
$50,000 for bodily injury or death to two or more persons in one accident;
$25,000 for injury to or destruction of property of others in one accident.
If you sue in court, and the court orders the defendant to pay an amount in excess of the policy limit, then, you can collect the policy limit from the insurance company, and, after you collect this policy limit, you must collect from the defendant personally. But, if the defendant does not have the money to pay the judgment, you won’t be able to collect. The defendant will be “judgment proof.”
If you win a large verdict in court, the truck driver likely won’t have the money to pay the judgment. But, if you sue the driver’s employer, and the employer has a lot of money, you will be able to collect from the employer, over and above the insurance policy limit. As lawyers often say, “Go after the deep pocket.”
Should You Sue the Truck Driver?
In addition to suing the truck driver’s employer, you should also, usually, sue the driver personally. If you join the driver as a party to the case, you will be allowed to conduct “discovery” against the driver. Discovery is a process where you may require a person to answer written and oral questions. You can’t conduct discovery on someone who is not a party to a case, but you can conduct discovery on a party. So, you’ll want to sue the driver so that the driver will be a party to the case, allowing you to conduct discovery. If you conduct discovery on the driver, you can gain valuable information that you can’t gain if the driver is not a party.
For more information about discovery, click here and scroll down to “Discovery.”
Every Accident is Unique
The advice I have given in this post is only general and doesn’t necessarily apply to all cases. Every motor vehicle accident case is different. You should seek qualified legal counsel to help you decide what is the best course of action for your specific case. If you have questions about your case, contact the Persaud Law Office for a free consultation.