Broker And Shipper Liability In Trucking Accidents

Broker And Shipper Liability In Trucking Accidents
December 17, 2013 jamesludlow

In having practiced personal injury law for more than 26 years, I have often found that many bad accidents had a long history in the making before the actual collision happened.  Specifically, many of the semi-truck cases that I have handled involved drivers or trucking companies that had rotten safety records.  This included many prior accidents as well as numerous safety violations, all of which showed a pattern of indifference to the safety of others.  All too often, such truck drivers and the trucking companies that they worked for only had the minimum insurance that was required by federal trucking law, if they had any insurance at all.  This usually resulted in the injured person being only partially compensated for their injury.

For a shipper, which is a company that wants to transport a load, and a broker, which is a company that is hired by the shipper to find a trucking company to haul their load, this used to be of little concern.  The reason for this lackadaisical attitude was because of a general rule that shippers and brokers had no liability to people who were injured by a careless truck driver.  After all they argued, they had hired a truck driver as an “independent contractor” to simply haul a load from one location to another and thus had no control over how the truck driver did his job.  Unfortunately, such a rule encouraged shippers and brokers to hire the cheapest driver rather than the safest.  Consequently, I have seen cases where the truck driver had a long history of drug use and accidents to such an extent that it was only a matter of time before he actually killed someone, which unsurprisingly he ultimately did.

Fortunately, a number of state and federal courts have begun to hold shippers and brokers liable if they hired a truck driver or trucking company that did not have a good safety record.  Specifically, Rule 411 of the Restatement of Torts (Second) states that while a company is generally not liable for the negligent acts of an independent contractor, a company may be liable if they failed to use reasonable care to “employ a competent and careful contractor to do work which will involve a risk of physical harm unless it is skillfully and carefully done.”

Since most courts have ruled that driving a large semi-truck certainly does involve a risk of great physical harm if it is not “skillfully and carefully done”, the question then becomes what steps did the broker or shipper take to make sure that they were hiring a “competent and careful contractor”?  In many of the cases that I have handled, the answer was “nothing”.   In such cases, if the truck driver or the trucking company did have a poor safety record, the shipper or broker can be liable for the injuries that they caused.

If you’ve been injured in a serious accident, hiring an attorney who knows what questions to ask can make all the difference regarding what financial recovery you will receive.  Please call the offices of Indiana Truck Accident Attorney James Ludlow, Attorney at Law at 1-877-897-9466 or submit the simple form on the Contact Us page for a free case evaluation and put my experience and knowledge to work for you.