In addition to motorists adhering to safe driving practices, preventing roadway accidents reflects a responsibility that transportation company management shoulders. If a trucking company fails to properly vet or train its drivers, a jury may find its management liable should any accidents occur.
By conducting thorough background checks, trucking companies can screen driver candidates and choose to hire only experienced and fully qualified employees. By failing to do so, a company could incur severe monetary penalties.
Recognizing a duty of care
Courts deciding liability for roadway accidents recognize that a trucking company holds a duty of care to ensure that it assigns only qualified and carefully vetted drivers to haul freight. This was not the case, however, when an Illinois court decided that a major trucking company was negligent in hiring and retaining a driver involved in a serious Indiana interstate highway accident.
After a motorist driving the wrong way caused a commotion on the highway, one of the company’s trucks slammed into a Jeep and pushed it into another tractor-trailer. The Jeep’s driver required several surgeries to treat his injuries and also suffered depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Admitting to negligence
The Jeep driver filed a lawsuit against the tractor-trailer operator and the company that employed him. During the trial, the company’s safety director admitted to the court that he hired the tractor-trailer operator in spite of a marginal driving record. He claimed his motivation was to help the company make a profit.
As reported by FreightWaves, the jury found the company responsible for the accident and ordered it to pay $35 million worth of punitive damages. The decision reflects an effort to penalize the trucking company for its wanton and willful conduct in hiring a marginal driver to increase its bottom line.
Finding liability for injuries
When a manager decides to override his or her company’s policy by hiring an unqualified driver, a jury may hold the company liable for that poor decision and any resulting harm. A legal action on behalf of an injured motorist may help recover for medical expenses and compensate for pain and suffering.