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How AB5 May Change Claims Against Truckers

By Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie on May 31, 2020

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Almost every industry in California, from rideshare drivers to freelance journalists to music festivals, is feeling the effect of AB5. Formally known as California Assembly Bill 5, AB5 officially went into effect on January 1st, 2020, and requires businesses to extend employee status to workers who do not meet the ABC test that would otherwise classify them as independent contractors. While this law has been marketed as a “gig worker bill”, it also may have a major impact on another group of workers: truckers.

Classifying Truckers in California

Traditionally, California truckers have been classified as independent contractors. As a result, they are exempt from receiving specific benefits from trucking companies that hire them. By classifying drivers as independent contractors, trucking companies have attempted to shield themselves from litigation, claiming that they are not liable for any injuries or property damage a truck driver causes.

For truckers that only drive within California, a victim of a truck accident could only file a claim against the truck driver, not their company. However, for truck drivers that travel across state lines, federal regulations require that they be considered employees of the trucking company, which means the trucking company is also liable for any injuries.

Logically, you would assume that AB5 could potentially transition all truck drivers in California from independent contractors to truck company employees, but it is not that simple. Currently, California courts have granted trucking companies with a temporary exemption to the law, allowing them to continue classifying truck drivers as independent contractors.

This case is still in development and may change with further arguments on either side. If the exemption is upheld in court, then AB5 will not affect trucking companies. However, if the law does extend to the trucking industry, personal injury claims may be affected as well.

Potential Changes to Liability

Under the current exemption, California’s interstate truck drivers are independent contractors and the truck companies who hire them may not be liable for their actions. You may still file a personal injury claim against a truck company, however, if your attorney can prove that the company negligently hired an at-risk driver, improperly maintained or inspected a vehicle, or pushed the driver to break federal regulations, such as by going over the legal hours of service.

For example, if the driver had a previous DUI and the truck company hired them, they could be held liable for negligent hiring. But if the truck driver had a clean background and this was their first DUI, then the truck company could not be considered negligent, because it was ultimately the driver’s actions that caused the accident.

If truck drivers are classified as employees, then filing a personal injury claim in a trucking accident will extend to trucking companies as well. Even in the above scenario, the truck company would be liable for any actions the truck driving took that resulted in an accident and would be required to pay compensation to victims.

It has yet to be determined how AB5 will impact liability, but if you have been in a truck accident with a negligent driver, you should contact an Orange County personal injury attorney at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie. We have a thorough understanding of the law and the legal tactics trucking companies employ to avoid paying compensation. Our legal team will investigate every aspect of the accident to determine fault and hold them accountable, whether they are an independent contractor or a truck company employee. Call us at (949) 752-7474 to schedule a free consultation and learn how the law applies to your case.

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Posted in: Truck Accidents

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