What is 'Logo Liability' in a Trucking Accident?

Driving on America's roadways, you'll often face the inevitable barrage of advertisements, from giant donut signs to billboards that, in the digital era, can now look back at you. The creepiness of that aside, probably the most common advertisements you see on the road are plastered on the trucks rolling right next to you.

While definitely a method of self-promotion, these emblems also serve a very important legal purpose. After all, under the concept of logo liability, the images displayed on a truck could ultimately determine the reach of liability after a truck accident. Read on to learn more about the definition of logo liability and how it could impact you or your loved ones in the event of a truck accident.

Logo Liability Defined

Logo liability comes into play whenever a commercial carrier transporting people or freight for compensation uses leased trucks and drivers instead of their own or uses an independent contractor to drive their own trucks instead of an employee. While businesses can be held vicariously liable for an employee's negligence, they are generally not liable for that of an independent contractor.

In other words, by using leases and independent contractors to transport freight, a motor carrier could theoretically minimize its liability in the event of a trucking accident. Because of this, federal regulation places special restrictions on carriers when using trucks and drivers that are not their own. Specifically, it requires any such lease to state that the commercial carrier:

shall have exclusive possession, control, and use of the equipment for the duration of the lease [and] shall assume complete responsibility for the operation of the equipment for the duration of the lease.

When interpreting these regulations, various courts developed the theory of logo liability in which vehicles must display the carrier's logo during the course of a lease. While the logo is displayed on a truck, there is a presumption of employee status for purposes of carrier liability.

Logo Liability in Different Jurisdictions

With the judicially created rule of logo liability in place, the federal agency that created the underlying regulations has actually questioned the doctrine. The former Interstate Commerce Commission (which has since been broken up into other agencies) walked back the impact of its regulations, stating that it never intended to create an employee relationship based on statute which has impacted the doctrine in several states.

As it stands, a majority of courts still recognize logo liability as creating an irrebutable presumption of employer-based liability for carriers which could be held strictly liable for truck accidents. However, there are a few jurisdictions which interpret the rule as only creating a presumption of employer-based liability which can be rebutted by a commercial carrier.

What Does This Mean For You?

With the different rules of logo liability, whether truck accident victims can recover for their losses from a carrier company can depend on the location of the accident.

If you're in an accident with a truck driver that's self-employed or in some other form of lease agreement with a carrier, you can always seek recovery from the driver's liability insurance. But in those cases where your damages exceed the policy amount, you may not be able to reach the carrier depending on your jurisdiction. Nevertheless, it's still important to obtain all possible information after a truck accident, such as:

  • Whether the driver is operating under a lease;
  • The names and contact information of all companies involved (including lessors);
  • The display of any logos or placards (document these with pictures if possible)

While obtaining this information, remember the other important steps you should take after any accident.

Logo Liability Questions? Get a Free Initial Review of Your Situation Today

With all of the possible parties involved and the injuries and losses they can cause, truck accidents can be complicated. Fortunately, there are attorneys that specialize in motor vehicle accidents who can not only advise you on the logo liability rules in your area, but also assist you in recovering for your losses. Reach out to one today and you can receive a preliminary review of your situation at absolutely no cost to you.

Next Steps

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