After a catastrophic truck wreck, most people focus their attention on the driver who caused the crash. However, there’s usually a lot more to the story. When trucking companies value profits over safety and people, they make irresponsible hiring decisions that contribute to wrecks. Truck injury lawyers refer to these claims as negligent hiring cases.
In this article, Crosley Law’s experienced injury lawyers will explain the basics of a negligent hiring claim and discuss how negligent hiring may affect your right to compensation.
There Are Strict Rules About the Hiring and Retention of Truck Drivers
Trucking companies, like all employers, must use reasonable care when hiring employees. However, when that employee is operating an 80,000-pound semi-truck, the stakes are incredibly high. If the company hires someone who is an unsafe or reckless driver, the results can be catastrophic.
That’s why the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have rules about background checks, health and wellness, and recordkeeping for trucking company employees. These rules include:
- Drivers must have a valid CDL (commercial driver’s license)
- Criminal offenses, like drunk driving, disqualify you from driving a truck
- Drivers cannot have a history of significant out-of-service violations or other safety violations
- Drivers are subject to drug testing and criminal background checks
- Employers must maintain a driver qualification file for each of their employees, which includes:
- Their job application
- References and information from their past employers
- A copy of their driving record, which is updated each year
- Their road test results and certificate
- A certificate from a medical examiner
- A waiver that permits them to drive after an amputation (if applicable)
The FMCSA also maintains a Pre-Employment Screening Program that trucking companies can easily use to get information about a job applicant’s driving history, safety violations, and other important information. These rules and programs are supposed to help trucking companies hire and retain safe drivers and identify those who are reckless or negligent on the road.
What Is Negligent Hiring?
Negligent hiring is a cause of action, or legal claim, that occurs when an employer’s reckless and irresponsible hiring decision causes an injury. To prove your negligent hiring claim, you’ll have to prove the following elements:
- The trucking company did not use reasonable care when they hired the driver, such as:
- Failing to perform required drug and alcohol testing
- Hiring someone without a valid CDL or DOT medical certification
- Ignoring a serious history of safety and regulatory violations
- Not performing full background checks on potential employees
- Ignoring a serious criminal record
- The employer’s lack of care led to a crash and caused your injuries
- You suffered damages, like lost income, medical bills, and pain and suffering
What Is Negligent Retention and Supervision?
An employer’s duty of care doesn’t end once they hire a new truck driver. They also need to train and routinely check their employees’ driving records, logbooks, and medical records to ensure that they can safely operate a tractor-trailer. If the company ignores a driver’s “red flags,” like a pattern of reckless driving or DOT violations, and fails to respond appropriately, they may be responsible for negligent retention or supervision.
Negligent supervision and retention occur when an employer fails to properly train their employees or address risky behaviors or rules violations, and the driver then injures someone. In the case of a commercial driver, a trucking company has a legal obligation to protect the public from truckers who ignore the rules of the road and safety regulations. The company also must watch for drivers who have serious medical issues that impact their ability to operate a truck as well truckers who lose their driving privileges.
If the trucking company fails to take reasonable care to identify unsafe drivers and an injury occurs, the company may owe the victims and their loved ones’ compensation for their losses and suffering.
How Do I File a Negligent Hiring Lawsuit?
Typically, your injury lawyer will include your negligent hiring claims in your truck wreck lawsuit, arguing that both the truck driver and their employer’s negligence caused your injuries. The trucking company’s insurer should be liable for both forms of negligence due to a legal theory called vicarious liability.
Vicarious liability means that a company is financially responsible for employees’ actions while they’re on the clock. Sometimes, trucking companies try to miscategorize their drivers as “independent contractors” to avoid liability. Companies are typically only responsible for the actions of their employees, not independent contractors.
After a truck wreck, if the insurance company denies your claim because the driver was “self-employed” or an “independent contractor,” do not take their word for it. Sometimes, an injury lawyer’s investigation will show that the company’s level of control over the driver’s hours, route, and workload results in vicarious liability.
“After a truck wreck, if the insurance company denies your claim because the driver was “self-employed” or an “independent contractor,” do not take their word for it. Sometimes, an injury lawyer’s investigation will show that the company’s level of control over the driver’s hours, route, and workload results in vicarious liability.”
When our injury lawyers investigate a negligent supervision or negligent retention claim, they examine company records, inspect employment files, and question human resource managers and supervisors about the trucking company’s culture of safety and the driver’s performance. If there is evidence that the driver was unfit to operate a commercial vehicle and the employer failed to offer training or correct the problem, you may have legal claims against the company. If the company’s or driver’s disregard for safety was intentional or incredibly reckless, you might be owed punitive damages.
Crosley Law: Fighting for Truck Accident Victims and Their Families in Texas
If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a truck wreck, Crosley Law can help you understand your legal options. Our injury lawyers focus on catastrophic motor vehicle claims, combining aggressive legal tactics with compassionate service.
49 CFR §391 (2001). Retrieved from https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&ty=HTML&h=L&mc=true&=PART&n=pt49.5.391
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.