Lawsuits Against Trucking Companies for Bad Truck Drivers
Every year, individuals are seriously injured or killed in truck accidents. These accidents are different that other types of accidents due to the sheer weight and volume of commercial semi-trucks, which can cause extensive damage to smaller vehicles even while at lower speeds. Additionally, these drivers are required to comply with many more laws than the drivers of passenger vehicles. When a truck driver causes an accident, the trucking company may be found liable for the accident under a number of legal theories.
In tort law, negligent entrustment claims may arise when a party is injured after a company or person entrusted someone with a dangerous instrumentality when the company or person in a negligent manner. This theory can apply to weapons cases as well as motor vehicle cases.
In truck accident cases, a claim of this nature may arise when the trucking company knew or should have known that the driver was not fit to handle the truck and that providing the truck for his or her use was an unreasonable risk.
Trucking companies must comply with a variety of state and federal laws. Part 391 of Volume 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations sets out the standards that must be employed before a trucking company should place a driver behind the dangerous instrumentality of a commercial truck. In particular, the Code of Federal Regulations requires the trucking company to actively investigate the truck driver’s background. The trucking company is responsible for verifying the truck driver’s employment information and inquiring into his or her driving history in each state that the driver has held a license within the last three years. Additionally, the trucking company must investigate the driver’s safety performance history with the Department of Transportation.
If the truck driver’s history makes it foreseeable that he or she may cause an accident, the trucking company may be held liable for negligent entrustment. For example, if a truck driver had a history of drinking and driving and then caused an accident after he drank, the trucking company will likely be found liable for the truck accident because it was aware of the previous traffic violations or it failed to do the required background investigation as required by federal law.
As explained above, commercial truck drivers must be thoroughly screened. Their driving record must be checked for violations of traffic laws, suspensions and any other red flags. This is called “due diligence.” Trucking companies that do not properly screen the backgrounds of their drivers place themselves in a precarious position in which they are susceptible to negligent hiring claims if these unchecked drivers are later found liable for an accident. Trucking companies can also be held responsible for negligent hiring when they fail to check other relevant aspects of their drivers, such as their vision, hearing or ability to make necessary judgments or handle stressful situations.
Another legal claim that can arise when a truck driver causes an accident is negligent retention. This cause of action arises when a driver may have first appeared to be suitable but then received a citation for a traffic violation or had his or her driver’s license suspended and the trucking company continues to employ the driver. Federal law requires that commercial truck drivers be suspended from the operation of commercial vehicles after they have been convicted of certain crimes, such as driving under the influence, causing a fatality while driving or using the vehicle while in the commission of a felony.
If you have any questions on these types of legal claims, contact a truck accident lawyer.
Author Bio: Steven M. Sweat is an award-winning personal injury attorney based in Los Angeles and is the principal of Steven M. Sweat, APC. He is regular contributor to numerous blogs regarding topics of tort law and accident claims.