Lawyers who do not regularly handle injury cases from truck accidents often think it is simply another car accident case, only with bigger vehicles. This could not be more wrong. Trucking accident injury cases have different factual and legal issues than car accident cases.
Although the factual differences are many, they will be addressed in a later post. This post is about some of the legal issues that are important in a truck accident case.
When they become involved in a lawsuit over a car crash, most people think it would be very helpful to their case if the other driver had a bad driving history, such as traffic violations or prior at-fault accidents. Of course, that would only be helpful if the jury ever found out about it. Usually they won’t. That is because generally, the only issues at play in a car accident case are 1) was the drviver negligent; and 2) damages. Prior driving history is usually not relevant to either of these issues, and therefore isn’t admissible in evidence. For laymen, the jury isn’t told about prior driving history because it doesn’t have anything to do with whether the bad guy was negligent that day, or with the proper amount of damages.
Injury cases involving trucks or commercial vehicles are different. That is because usually, the vehicle is either owned or being operated on behalf of a trucking company or some other type of corporate entity. The driver is driving it because that’s the job he was hired to do.
In these kinds of cases, experienced lawyers generally bring a claim for negligent entrustment, supervision, hiring, or retention. This is a claim made by the injured person against the owner of the truck or the driver’s employer. It alleges that the owner or employer was negligent because they knew or should have known that it wasn’t safe to allow the driver to operate their truck, but did it anyway.
This lets you get into the hiring and employment process to determine if the driver had a bad record and whether the employer knew about it or should have known about it if a proper investigation was done. Did the driver tell the truth about his prior record on the application? Did he notify the employer of accidents or traffic violations during the employment? Did the employer check his record? When? How often?
The negligent entrustment claim allows you to get discovery of all these issues, and to put them before the jury. This can make a huge difference in cases where liability is contested because the individual case can become part of a larger pattern of the driver’s conduct.
One more reason to make sure your lawyer has experience in the kind of case you have. Issues like this won’t make a huge difference in every case, but in the cases where it matters, it’s an advantage you don’t want to give up.