If you are in the business of providing transportation for goods via large trucks, then you run the risk of being involved in a catastrophic accident which could damage or destroy your business. And the rough part is that it probably will not matter if you are the actual party responsible for the crash. It can have the same impact if you or an employee was driving.
This is the lesson learned by a mid-size trucking company from the south. One of their drivers was in an accident last year when he ran through a red light and struck a car with a man and his wife. The man had a traumatic brain injury, rendering him unable to do anything for himself, and his wife lost the companionship of her husband. All of these damages added up to a big bill for the trucking company and its insurer.
This case was so clear cut that it did not even go to the jury on whether the truck driver was negligent and caused the problems. It simply went to the jury on the question of how much damages should be paid for disabling a man and robbing his wife of their companionship. The jury came back with a verdict in less than four hours of over $20 million. Now imagine what a $20 million hit would look like for your company.
The Legal Issues at Play
The company will be the ones on the hook for the large verdict, and this is largely due to a legal doctrine known as respondeat superior. This legal doctrine holds an employer legally liable for the negligent acts of its employees, when the employee is acting in the scope of his or her employment. For example, when a truck driver is moving freight and negligently causes an accident, hurting the driver of another vehicle.
No doubt this is not a new concept for you, even if you were not familiar with its technical name. But beyond being a legal doctrine, it should be an important part of every business plan in the trucking industry. Every company should understand what it means, how to prepare for it when it gets applied, and what steps to take in order to limit its impact following an accident – large or small.
Knowing is much of the battle in this cases. If you can understand what you are potentially on the hook for, it is easier to plan for every possible contingency. And if your employees know what is at stake, it can make training and education of employees more meaningful and help messages stick. But sometimes all the planning in the world cannot prevent or cure accidents and results such as what happened here.
Your Legal Partner in the Transportation Business
At Anderson and Yamada, we have dozens of years of experience guiding, representing, and counseling trucking companies of all sizes on these and other transportation law issues. Whether you are facing a suit over an accident, or because of lost or stolen freight involving the Carmack Amendment, contact us. We will take the time to help you understand what your options are in your situation, and help you along your way so you can continue to grow and succeed in what you do best.