Accidents involving large commercial vehicles can be catastrophic, causing significant physical injuries and leaving victims struggling for financial stability. While most truck accidents occur because of driver error, such as speeding or distracted driving, sometimes these mistakes are really the result of an underlying failure on the part of the trucking company: negligent hiring practices. Negligent hiring practices by commercial trucking companies can lead to drivers with little to no experience getting behind the wheel of a big rig. It can also lead to drivers with a dangerous record operating an 80,000-pound machine on New York roadways.
What are negligent hiring practices? Can a trucking company be held responsible for compensating you if their negligent hiring practices lead to an accident? The attorneys with Finz & Finz, P.C. will explain what negligent hiring means and what this practice can mean for your New York truck accident claim.
Examples of Negligent Hiring Practices
Safely operating a large, heavy vehicle, like a commercial truck, takes skill and training. Individuals who operate these mammoth vehicles must pass rigorous training courses, hold a valid commercial motor operator’s license, and be physically qualified to perform the duties of a commercial driver as outlined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Trucking companies that employ or contract commercial drivers are responsible for ensuring the drivers they hire can adequately and safely perform their job duties.
If a company knew or should have reasonably known that one of their drivers posed a risk of injuring themselves or others on the job, they can be held liable for compensating victims injured in an accident caused by the careless driver. Negligent hiring means a company or manager failed to take appropriate care when hiring, training, or overseeing the actions and behavior of a commercial truck driver.
Some of the most common examples of potentially negligent hiring practices can include:
- Failing to conduct a background check
- Failing to identify if a driver holds a valid commercial driving license
- Failing to impose disciplinary measures against drivers who violate driving regulations and company policy
- Failing to log accidents or complaints against drivers
- Failing to maintain driver employment records
- Failing to maintain hours-of-service logs and pre-trip inspection reports
- Failing to provide drivers with adequate training and supervision
- Failing to require applicants to undergo medical screenings
- Failing to suspend drivers diagnosed with medical conditions deemed unsafe for commercial truck operation
- Hiring drivers with a criminal background
- Hiring drivers with a history of accidents
- Hiring drivers with a history of substance abuse
- Hiring unskilled or untrained drivers
- Promoting a culture where drivers are encouraged to speed, disregard hours-of-service regulations, or drive recklessly to meet deadlines
These actions are not mistakes or oversights. They are examples of behaviors that can jeopardize the safety of New Yorkers. When commercial trucking companies value profit over the safety of their drivers and other motorists, innocent people pay the ultimate price. Data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration indicates that 72 percent of those killed in accidents involving large trucks were the occupants of the other vehicle.
Can a Trucking Company Be Liable for an Accident Caused by Negligent Hiring?
Following a truck accident, the natural reaction for most victims is to point the finger at the careless truck driver. However, assigning blame to the truck driver isn’t the end of the story. Depending on the circumstances, more than one party may be liable for the accident. In the case of negligent hiring practices, both the trucking company and the careless driver may be liable for causing the accident. Yet, holding the trucking company or their insurer accountable and recovering the compensation you deserve can be an uphill battle. You must prove the company engaged in negligent hiring practices, an overwhelming task when you are coping with significant and painful physical injuries.
A skilled New York truck accident attorney has the knowledge and resources to collect and preserve the evidence they’ll need to build a solid case against the trucking company. This evidence may include:
- Documents concerning company hiring practices
- Driver background checks
- Driver training details
- Hours-of-service logs
- Safety inspections
Crucially, this evidence belongs to the trucking company. They do not willingly hand this information over to injured victims. It can take legal intervention in the form of a letter of spoliation to prevent these entries from losing or destroying vital evidence.
What About Independent Contractors?
One tactic used by numerous companies to shield themselves against legal liability is the use of independent contractors. Independent contractors accomplish specific tasks for a company. However, they are not considered company employees. Since they are not technically company employees, they are not entitled to company benefits, and the company does not assume liability on their behalf as they would for their employees under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior.
Since this is a standard strategy companies employ to limit their liability in the event of an accident, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration stepped in to outline who is responsible for compensating an accident victim after a crash caused by a careless driver. FMCSA regulations stipulate that motor carriers are responsible for compliance with their regulations, including those identified as owner-operators or independent contractors. Therefore, the FMCSA eliminates the distinction between employees and independent contractors within the regulated commercial trucking industry. Labeling a driver as an independent contractor doesn’t mean the trucking company that hired that contractor avoids liability when their negligent hiring practices lead to a significant accident.
Let an Experienced New York Truck Accident Attorney Help You
Being involved in a truck accident with a careless or inexperienced driver can upend your world. The attorneys with Finz & Finz, P.C. don’t think you should have to pay for the negligent hiring practices of a commercial trucking company. Our tenacious New York truck accident attorneys are ready to fight for the compensation you deserve and hold the careless trucking company accountable for their actions. We’ve already recovered more than $1 billion in settlements and verdicts for our clients, so you know we have what it takes to pursue the money you need.
Contact our New York office today to arrange a free legal consultation.