By Chris Cotter
When a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is brought against a commercial transportation company after a motor vehicle accident, creative lawyers are increasingly including negligence claims.
Such claims focus attention on how the transportation company hires, trains, supervises, and disciplines its drivers. Falling short in these practices can form the basis for a jury to hold the transportation company liable.
A company accused of failing to properly screen, train, supervise, and discipline its drivers is required to prove and justify its past actions. Strict adherence to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s recordkeeping requirements is the absolute minimum. When examined in light of a tragic accident, records must clearly show that the carrier made every reasonable effort to keep unsafe drivers off the road.
Under the controlling law in most states, a transportation company will be held liable for failing to observe reasonable care in overseeing its driver. It amounts to a claim that the company knew, or would have known if it had exercised ordinary care, that the driver was likely to cause an accident. Negligence claims are based on the principle that companies have a responsibility to protect customers and the public from injury at the hands of their employees.
The impact of a claim for negligent practices becomes apparent immediately after the lawsuit is filed, when the company’s policies are requested during the discovery process. The plaintiff’s attorney will target the qualification files of all current and former drivers, and will request the safety director, dispatchers, driver trainers, and personnel managers to testify under oath.
When choosing transportation partners, it’s in your best interest to make sure they can position themselves to defend claims. Compliance with the regulations alone is not enough. The transportation companies you work with should enforce the following four tactics.
It is never too late for your transportation partners to improve safety operations. The changes they make today will reduce liability tomorrow.