Establishing Trucking Company Liability

Chicago Lawyers Dedicated to Helping Truck Accident Victims

There are numerous federal and state regulations that truck drivers and trucking companies are required to follow. Yet truck crashes have increased over the past several years, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If you are injured in a truck accident and have concerns about establishing trucking company liability, you should consult an experienced Chicago truck accident lawyer. Not all personal injury attorneys are well equipped to go up against truck companies and their insurers. At Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Eagle, Johnson & Bareck, we understand the kinds of tactics that trucking companies and their insurers may use to try to avoid turning over important evidence and escape liability, and we aggressively represent truck accident victims.

Establishing Trucking Company Liability

There are all sorts of arrangements whereby truck drivers are on the road transporting cargo over long distances. In some cases, the truck driver is an employee of a trucking company and transporting goods on behalf of the employer. Sometimes drivers independently lease trucks from truck companies and then contract with a carrier to transport cargo. In other instances, a carrier might own the truck and lease it to the driver with an option to purchase. Since there are many different arrangements that a truck driver and trucking company may make, it can be challenging to figure out who should be held accountable when a truck driver injures someone on the road.

In many cases, trucking companies have more insurance coverage than do individual drivers. Due to the weight and size of commercial trucks, injuries can be catastrophic, and the costs of treating those injuries and replacing wages for victims can be tremendous. Therefore, establishing trucking company liability is very important.

In some cases, a trucking company is vicariously liable for a driver. In Illinois, an employer can be vicariously liable for the acts of an employee when the employee is acting within the "scope of employment" at the time of the accident or injury. Vicarious liability is a form of indirect liability. You will not need to show that the employer did anything wrong, but only that the employee was negligent in the course and scope of employment.

To show the trucking company's vicarious liability for this negligence, you would need to prove that the act occurred in the scope of employment, or while the truck driver was in service to the trucking company. If, for example, the truck driver was running a personal errand during a break and T-boned your car, you may not be able to show vicarious liability because he was doing something for himself rather than his employer.

You may be able to recover damages if you can show that the trucking company was itself negligent. If the trucking company failed to use reasonable care while hiring, training, or supervising its employees, and this failure caused your injuries, it may be held liable under theories of negligent hiring, negligent training, or negligent supervision. There are a number of regulations that trucking companies must follow. Under the FMCSA, an interstate trucking company needs to conduct background checks and drug and alcohol testing of people applying for truck driver jobs. If, for example, a background check would have revealed that a truck driver has a history of alcohol abuse and DUIs, but the trucking company ignored it or failed to do the check, and the truck driver gets into a drunk driving accident, it may be possible to hold the trucking company liable for negligent hiring.

If a truck driver has simply leased a truck from another company and has no relationship to the company beyond the lease agreement, the Graves Amendment may apply. The Graves Amendment is a federal law that immunizes rental and leasing companies whose vehicles are involved in accidents caused by people who lease them. However, it may still be possible to hold the trucking company liable for a truck driver's actions, depending on whether there are more substantial connections between the trucking company and the truck driver. Each case is different, and you should consult an experienced attorney about your situation if you have been injured.

Contact a Knowledgeable Chicago Attorney for Your Trucking Accident Case

If you are hoping to establish trucking company liability, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney. At Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Eagle, Johnson & Bareck, we represent accident victims in Chicago, Champaign, Quincy, Aurora, Rockford, and Springfield, as well as other areas of Cook, Adams, Sangamon, Champaign, Winnebago, and Kane Counties. Call us at 312-263-6330 or toll-free at 800-444-1525 for a free consultation.