Did you know that an employer may be held liable and responsible for the acts of their employee? Truck companies may be liable for truck accidents caused by their drivers.
A commercial motor vehicle carrier, or truck company has certain obligations under the law to make sure their drivers are able to properly carry out their duties such as driving a commercial vehicle so that they do not cause injuries to the public.
How is a trucking company liable for its employee-driver?
A person who is hurt in a truck accident can sue on the basis of negligent hiring. Negligent hiring is when a trucking company should have been more careful when hiring its truck drivers because the company should have known whether or not the a driver was competent, or good at his job when he applied for the position. It is worth noting that this is not the same as negligent entrustment.
Negligent entrustment, on the other hand, is when the trucking company should not have entrusted their commercial vehicle to the driver because the driver could not properly drive the truck. Put simply, the company failed to make sure it did not improperly trust a driver to handle its commercial motor vehicle when he cannot safely operate it. A company can also be held liable for improperly or negligently supervising its employees. Similarly, negligent retention refers to when a trucking company finds out that the truck driver they hired is not able to do his job well, but keeps letting him continue to drive and use the truck anyway.
For example, evidence that a trucking company had rules and procedures in place but failed to discipline drivers that broke its rules can show that the company did not properly watch over its employee-driver.
Each state has its own unique laws. Generally, a state’s laws cannot conflict with federal laws if they are very different from the federal standards, and relieve commercial motor carriers and truck companies from their responsibilities under the federal standards.
It is worth recognizing that laws and standards change over time as the government enacts new laws and the courts continue to interpret the laws. Which laws will give an injured plaintiff or claimant the most compensation depend on the unique facts of his or her case. Contact us today to find a truck accident lawyer to understand which laws may apply in your particular case.
Federal laws make it so that a trucking company needs get a commercial vehicle driver’s background information before they hire the driver, and if they do not carry out their duties, then the employer trucking company can be held responsible.
This is especially true if, after the facts are exposed, a background check would have shown the trucking company that they should not have hired the driver from the start. In other words, if the trucking company did not carry out its duty to do a proper background check of the driver and then the driver caused a truck accident, then the company may be responsible for the accident. Had the company just checked the driver’s background, the entire accident may have been able to be avoided. For example, if a truck driver had been in a lot of accidents in the past, and the company still let him drive on the roads, then the company shares in the blame.
The company may be found to have knowledge of these violations and accidents if it fails to look into the driver’s qualifications and background, including the accidents the driver was in and any other times the driver broke the rules.
Under certain legal guidelines and regulations, the application for a potential new hire for a commercial driver job needs to include his employment history in recent years. The company should also consider the driver’s existing driver licenses. Another factor the trucking company should consider is whether the potential new hire has a history of drug or alcohol abuse. Ideally, this includes drug testing. In addition, the company should think about any potential health issues that affect the potential new hire. If the person was recently diagnosed with narcolepsy and could spontaneously pass out on the road no matter how much control he has, or another uncontrollable medical condition, it is up to the trucking company to take this into consideration for the sake of public safety.
There is a lot more than a commercial truck driver’s ability to drive a large 18-wheeler or other commercial motor vehicle that comes into play. The trucking company should consider whether the truck driver is able to:
- Properly complete a checklist before going on the road and before each job or trip,
- Operate and control the commercial motor vehicle,
- Understand emergency procedures and use any emergency equipment,
- Attach and detach parts of the vehicle when needed,
- Safely drive the commercial motor vehicle during traffic and different road conditions, and
- Make safe turns, break, park and reverse the commercial motor vehicle.
Beyond these considerations, federal law requires that all commercial motor vehicle drivers meet certain basic qualifications; the driver must:
- Be at least 21 years old,
- Read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records,
- Safely operate the type of commercial motor vehicle he/she drives because of the driver’s experience, training, or both,
- Be physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with regulations,
- Have a valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s license issued only by one State or jurisdiction,
- Not be disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle under regulations,
- Have successfully completed a driver’s road test and been issued a certificate of driver’s road test in accordance, or presented an operator’s license or a certificate of road test which the motor carrier that employs him/her has accepted as equivalent to a road test in accordance with regulations.
This is important because if the driver of a commercial motor vehicle is completely unable to understand the law or safety signs, it is going to be extremely difficult for the driver to operate the vehicle in a safe way. More importantly, it is going to be dangerous to other people on the road. The driver needs enough understanding, skills to recognize how the cargo he secures may move around when he is driving. The driver also needs to be physically capable enough to secure the cargo so that it does not endanger others on the road.
It is also worth noting that sometimes, trucking companies do not conduct their own investigations into their potential new hires’ backgrounds anymore. Sometimes, trucking companies have their insurance companies look into their potential drivers. Then, the insurance company will tell the trucking company whether or not they will provide insurance coverage for the driver. But state and federal laws that apply to commercial motor vehicle companies do not really apply to insurance companies, because the focus of these laws was to get the trucking companies to be held responsible. So unless the insurance company accepted the responsibility of hiring a new driver and then was negligent in the process, it probably will not be held liable the way the trucking company would be held liable.
To help track potential issues and manage safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a Pre-Employment Screening Process database. This means that if a truck driver applies to a job with a trucking company, the company can get a report on the driver that will include information about any accidents the driver was in before, inspections the driver was a part of and any audits that may have been performed. However, this report typically cannot be accessed by the general public who simply search it on the internet. Still, it is worth it for attorneys to understand the process for tracking commercial vehicle drivers so that they know the right questions to ask and understand the process.
It takes knowledge, skill and experience to successfully collect evidence to support a lawsuit, navigate state and federal laws and regulations as well as hold trucking companies and insurance companies responsible after they cause injuries and damages.
Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer
Without experience in the insurance industry or legal experience, understanding which factors or evidence can help or hurt your case can be difficult to understand.
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The Pusch & Nguyen Law Firm has helped countless Texans handle their insurance disputes. Our experienced trial lawyers have gone up against some of the biggest names in the insurance industry while successfully bringing home payouts for clients. Our successful reputation speaks for itself, and with offices in both Houston and San Antonio, we are well equipped to assist Texans who are in dire need of our services. Register online for a free case evaluation or call us today at 713-524-8139 (Houston) or 210-702-3000 to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.