Basis for Imposing Liability on a Commercial Carrier for Negligence of a Truck Driver


February 07, 2013

Trucking accidents are far more likely to result in permanent debilitating injuries or fatalities than those involving motor vehicles that are not as massive in size or weight.

Because these types of injuries tend to result in staggering medical bills and extended periods of disability, truck drivers generally will not have adequate assets or personal insurance to fully compensate trucking accident victims. This makes it essential that the liability of the trucking company be established so that there is adequate insurance for trucking accident victims to be fully compensated.

The liability of a commercial carrier for negligence of truck drivers may be based on a number of legal theories of liability including:

• Negligent inspection and maintenance: Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration Regulations and state law impose specific requirements that commercial carriers conduct periodic inspections and perform repairs and maintenance. When mechanical malfunctions occur like brake failure or appropriate records are not maintained, this may constitute a basis for imposing liability on the commercial carrier.

• Lease liability: If a trucking company leases a driver and truck, the truck must bear the placard of the commercial carrier who must have exclusive possession of the truck. Courts have interpreted this exclusive possession relationship as analogous to the employment respondeat superior relationship (more information on this below).

• Violations of trucking regulations: Trucking regulations frequently are designed to prevent potentially fatal trucking accidents by imposing safety rules regarding a wide variety of issues, including semi-truck maintenance, screening and training of drivers, supervision of drivers, drug and alcohol testing, recordkeeping regulations, hours of service rules and more. Violations of these trucking regulations may form the basis for imposing negligence on the commercial carrier.

• Employer liability: Where the truck driver is an employee of the commercial carrier, the doctrine of respondeat superior may provide a basis for imposing liability on the trucking company. This term translates as "let the master answer." Sometimes trucking companies try to characterize their relationship to a truck driver as an independent contractor relationship. However, our experienced Georgia trucking accident attorneys may be able to prove the relationship is merely a ruse to avoid liability based on the degree of control the company exercises over the day to day operation of the truck driver.

• Negligent hiring or retention: Commercial carriers are required to conduct an appropriate pre-hiring background investigation and conduct ongoing evaluations of commercial drivers. When drivers are shown to have committed certain violations or to have failed drug or alcohol tests, commercial carriers may be expected to take the commercial driver out of service. When trucking companies hire drivers with unsafe driving records, this irresponsible behavior may form a basis of liability.

• Negligent entrustment: Trucking companies may be liable for entrusting a semi-truck to someone they know is incompetent based on past driving history or lack of experience.

The experienced Georgia truck accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Truck Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.