Motor Carrier Negligence and Truck Accidents
If you have been injured in a truck accident, you can likely name other defendants in addition to the negligent driver in your personal injury lawsuit. The trucking carrier that employed the driver can often be held responsible for your injuries through the doctrine of vicarious liability. As an accident lawyer can explain, a truck driver is acting within the scope and course of their employment when their negligent actions occur, their employer will also be liable for those actions. Additionally, the trucking carrier might be directly liable if its own negligence contributed to the accident in some way. For example, the trucking carrier may have been negligent in hiring or training the driver involved in the accident.
Vicarious Liability of Trucking Carriers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a federal agency created to oversee the regulation of all trucking companies in the United States. Trucking companies must abide by regulations promulgated by the FMCSA and if a driver violates a regulation and causes an accident, the trucking carrier can be held liable for any injury caused and may have to pay monetary penalties to the FMCSA for its driver’s violation of the regulations.
The trucking carrier is also deemed to be vicariously liable for any negligent actions its drivers commit in the course and scope of their employment with the trucking carrier. This doctrine of vicarious liability is called respondeat superior.
Direct Liability of Trucking Carriers for Hiring Drivers
Trucking carriers have a duty to ensure that the drivers they hire are competent and will operate the trucks safely. This duty imposes several obligations on trucking carriers when hiring drivers. Trucking carriers must conduct background checks on drivers before hiring them to determine whether their driving history indicates that they may be an unsafe driver. Carriers must also confirm that all drivers they hire have the licenses and endorsements required to carry the type of cargo the company transports and that their licenses are not invalid or suspended. Additionally, carriers must check to ensure that their drivers have completed all training required to drive a commercial truck.
If a carrier fails to fulfill any of these obligations and a driver causes an accident, the carrier may be liable for negligent hiring or negligent training of the driver. A carrier can also be liable for negligently retaining a driver who has caused previous accidents or whose license has been suspended or revoked.
Direct Liability of Trucking Carriers for Maintaining Vehicles
Trucking carriers are also responsible for ensuring that the cargo is properly loaded on all its commercial trucks. Many trucking accidents are caused when unsecured cargo falls off the truck while driving. If this occurs due to the carrier’s failure to ensure the cargo was properly loaded, the carrier will be directly liable for its own negligence in causing the accident. Further, any third-party distributor that loaded the cargo onto the truck can also be held liable if the cargo falls off and causes personal injury or property damage.
Additionally, a trucking carrier can be held liable for any damage caused by its failure to properly maintain and repair commercial trucks. Carriers have a duty to inspect their trucks and repair any defects that could impair the safety of the trucks in a timely manner. If a carrier fails to do so and the defect leads the truck to be involved in an accident that causes personal injury or property damage, the carrier will be directly liable for its own negligence in causing the accident.
Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight on motor carrier negligence and truck accidents.