Often trucking companies hire allegedly "independent " contractors to work for them and claim they have no responsibility for their actions. They deny they have to provide insurance coverage or that they need to accept any responsibility for these drivers and the poorly maintained tractor trailers they place on the road. DON’T FALL FOR IT!
49 CFR 376.12 (c) (1) states that a carrier may utilize equipment it does not own only when “the authorized carrier lessee shall have exclusive possession, control and use of the equipment for the duration of the lease. The lease shall further provide that the authorized carrier lessee shall assume complete responsibility for the operation of the equipment for the duration of the lease.” In Shell v. Navajo Freight Lines, 693 P.2d 382 (Colo. Ct. App. 1984), the Colorado Court of Appeals noted that “[t]he regulations, which have the force and effect of law, eliminate the defense of independent contractor by making the owner/operator of the equipment the "statutory employee" of the carrier.”
There are two lines of cases. Some courts have have concluded that the leasing regulations were intended to impose to impose strict vicarious liability when a leasing agreement is in effect, not withstanding the driver’s "independent contractor" status. See: Morris v. JTM Materials, Inc, 78 S.W.2d (Tex. App. 2002) Other courts have concluded a state law respondeat superior and "scope of employment" analysis is required as a prerequisite to the determination of vicarious liability. See: Parker v. Erixon, 473 S.E.2d 421 (N.C. App 1996)
The rules and regulations governing tractor trailer collisions are complex and are not for the beginner or the faint at heart. Make sure that anyone hired to handle your case has a thorough grounding in these complex regulations.