Americans face nearly constant bombardment from advertisements and logos, even on the road. Most drivers have noticed commercial trucks with company logos emblazoned on their trailers, but few realize that these logos can actually influence liability determinations in some accidents. Logo liability is the concept pertaining to responsibility for a truck accident based on the logo on the truck.
Defining Employer and Contractor Relationships
Many commercial trucking enterprises face extreme demand and must augment their proprietary fleets with leased or contracted vehicles. Employers in the U.S. generally face vicarious liability for the actions of their drivers, but they can often avoid liability for the actions of contracted drivers or leased third-party driving services. Essentially, a trucking company could potentially avoid vicarious liability for the actions of an independently contracted driver.
Logo liability helps ensure that trucking companies assume their fair share of liability for trucking accidents involving leased or contracted vehicles. Federal regulations now require trucking companies that lease vehicles to display the company logo on the leased vehicles for the duration of their leasing periods. This regulation essentially requires a trucking company to assume full legal responsibility for a leased vehicle or contracted driver for the full extent of the leasing period.
Despite the seemingly straightforward nature of the concept of logo liability, the reality is that opponents of this regulation claim it essentially creates an employer-employee relationship that should not exist between a company and a leased or contracted driver.
Different Interpretations of Logo Liability
The agency that first adopted logo liability regulation, the Interstate Commerce Commission, no longer exists and has since splintered into several other agencies. However, after adopting this regulation, the agency noticed potential issues when it comes to the de facto creation of employer-employee relationships. The agency stated it never intended to create such relationships and attempted to walk back sections of the regulation, but many jurisdictions continue to consider logo liability as a presumption of employer-based vicarious liability. Some jurisdictions allow a commercial carrier to argue the presumption of employer-based liability under the logo liability regulation.
How Logo Liability Influences Recovery After a Truck Accident
If you suffer injuries and other losses in a commercial truck accident, logo liability can potentially come into play in a subsequent lawsuit. If you had an accident with a self-employed truck driver or a driver in a lease agreement with a carrier company, it is possible to secure a recovery from the at-fault driver’s liability insurance. However, if the driver’s insurance cannot fully cover the cost of your damages, you may or may not have the option of pursuing legal action against the carrier.
After a truck accident, an injured driver should assess two important factors to determine if and how logo liability may come into play in a subsequent lawsuit.
- Was the driver operating under a lease? If so, the carrier company may try to shift liability to the leased driver.
- Did the truck display a logo from the carrier company? If so, the carrier company is likely liable for the accident under logo liability law.
Most courts uphold strict liability for carrier companies when their drivers cause accidents, and this generally applies to any leased or contracted driver displaying a carrier company’s logo. One of the most important factors in these cases is the location where the truck accident took place. Depending on the state’s interpretation of logo liability regulations, the truck driver may face strict liability or the carrier that leased the truck could face liability.
If you or a loved one recently suffered damages in a truck accident, it is crucial to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Your truck accident attorney in West Virginia can help you determine which parties bear responsibility for your damages and how logo liability could come into play in your lawsuit.