Negligent Selection and Hiring of Drivers as a Basis for Tractor-Trailer Liability


September 15, 2016

Atlanta Trucking Accident Attorneys Discuss Negligent Selection and Hiring of Drivers as a Basis for Tractor-Trailer Liability

When motorists are involved in a multi-vehicle collision, there is always a risk of severe injury or wrongful death. If one of the vehicles weighs 25 times more than the other vehicle, the consequences can be even more serious for occupants of the smaller vehicle. Given the high risk of catastrophic injury associated with tractor-trailer crashes, injury victims should be aware of the theories that make trucking companies liable for collisions caused by the negligence of truck drivers. Commercial carriers receive legal advice from insurance carriers and attorneys regarding ways to shield themselves from liability for injuries caused by commercial drivers.

Misclassifying Drivers as Independent Contractors to Avoid Liability

A common strategy employed by many businesses involves classifying drivers as independent contractors. If a truck driver causes an accident because of exhaustion after ignoring hours of service rules, the trucking company will sometimes argue that the plaintiff in a trucking accident lawsuit must seek compensation from the truck driver as "independent contractor," as opposed to seeking compensation against the trucking company under the theory that the driver is an employee. This contention can present a serious dilemma for plaintiffs because a true independent contractor, such as an "owner-operator" typically will not have nearly as much insurance coverage as a trucking or shipping company.

Given the financial incentive to maximize profits, companies often develop practices designed to move goods to their destination at the lowest cost. Compliance with safety rules does not necessarily provide the greatest cost efficiency, so some companies cut corners. Truck drivers with poor driving records or a history of alcohol or drug abuse typically cannot command the same pay as a good driver. Commercial carriers can sometimes obtain a short-term competitive advantage by ignoring serious blemishes in a driver's past performance during the hiring process.

Proving an Employment Relationship through Evidence of Control Exercised by Trucking Company

Our experienced trucking accident attorneys often can help clients pursue a claim even if the trucking company contends that the driver is an independent contractor. The classification given to a driver by the trucking company is not the final word on whether the truck driver is an independent contractor. If the company exercises a sufficient degree of control over the driver, the so-called independent contractor status can be exposed as fiction. Careful discovery and analysis of documents and testimony regarding the degree to which the company supervises and oversees the driver's duties can persuade a court to determine that an employer-employee relationship exists. This finding is important because the liability of a careless or inattentive truck driver can be attributed to the company under the doctrine of respondeat superior, which literally translated means "let the master answer."

Even if the negligent truck driver that causes your injuries is an independent contractor, the company can still be financially responsible for the driver's lack of care. A trucking company can be liable for physical injury caused by its lack of care in selecting a reasonably careful and competent contractor. This principle extends not only to a trucking company that uses independent contractors to navigate its routes but also to a retailer that hires an individual owner-operator to transport loads. Depending on the circumstances, our Georgia trucking accident lawyers gather evidence in our clients' cases to determine whether the company failed to adequately screen a driver before authorizing him to operate an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer.

Trucking companies sometimes hire drivers (even as independent contractors) without an adequate background check regarding past traffic citations, failure to comply with trucking safety regulations, alcohol or drug abuse issues, employment history, and collisions. We are committed to holding companies accountable when they endanger public safety by cutting corners during the hiring process.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 32 Years of Legal Experience to Work For Your Case!

If you or a loved one is injured by a fatigued, inattentive, or drug-impaired truck driver, our Atlanta trucking accident attorneys diligently pursue the fullest recovery for our clients under the law by exploring the liability of commercial carriers and companies shipping cargo. Our law firm has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout Georgia and in the Southeast for over thirty-two years, 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, the attorneys of Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, 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.