Articles Posted in Liability

The increasing number of accidents involving large trucks and the severity of the injuries they cause is a serious problem for motorists. While the effects of accidents involving 18-wheelers like the one pictured can be devastating, smaller commercial vehicles also pose a common safety risk. Trucks driven by plumbers, grass cutters, cable installers, florists, and other businesses rely on a fleet of vehicles to deliver their products or services. Are they held to the same safety regulations as larger vehicles?

Trucking Safety Regulations

The Role of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Fortunately the answer is yes — depending on several factors. The FMCSA is the federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The primary goal of the agency is to reduce crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities caused by large trucks and buses but it also has jurisdiction over smaller vehicles. States also have laws related to the license and driving requirements for commercial vehicles. Any business using commercial motor vehicles must obtain authority from both state and federal trucking authorities.

What your attorney can do to protect you

Most big trucking corporations have a legal team ready to jump into action as soon as an accident occurs. They keep a playbook of tactics for minimizing liability. I know these tactics well; I have encountered them time and time again. But I have my own playbook of strategies to protect my clients’ rights.

Not hiring an experienced attorney right away can put the victim at a disadvantage. An attorney can counter these common defense tactics:

1. Be first to the scene

The tractor-trailer company retains private investigators to immediately show up on the scene. These investigators walk around without restraint, taking photographs, interviewing witnesses, chatting with police officers, and looking for mitigating evidence.

A company investigator may even give the false impression that he is a police officer so victims are more forthcoming. They then use the statements made in the frightening aftermath of the accident and often twist around the victim’s words or take them out of context.

This is why I also head to the scene for my clients. I gather evidence at this crucial stage and prevent the defendant from speaking to my client. Continue reading

Companies are often not liable for negligence of independent contractors

Ho, ho, ho. Tis the season when we get together with our families, go to church, and of course shop. More than ever, that means we buy items online and get them quickly delivered to our door steps.

Amazon hires thousands of delivery drivers under a program it calls Amazon Flex. These people have the flexibility to work seven days a week and as many hours as he or she can handle – even after working all day somewhere else.

But it is Amazon which gets the real advantage of flexibility. The company is able to increase its pool of drivers without paying job benefits, health insurance, and vehicle liability insurance.

How does it do this? Flex drivers are somehow not classified as employees but as independent contractors.

So who is liable when there delivery truck drivers cause a wreck? This issue is winding its way through different courts with predictably conflicting results. The Texas Supreme Court rendered a decision on a related case in 2015.

The problem is that allowing delivery drivers to be classified as independent contractors shifts liability and compensation from the company to the individual who may not even have auto insurance. If he does, you can bet it is the minimum coverage. In Texas, that is only $30,000 per one person injured, $60,000 for everyone injured (excepting the driver) and $25,000 for all vehicle damage (excepting the truck). That’s usually not enough money to pay for everyone’s medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.

This disturbing trend is not limited to Amazon. FedEd, UPS, WalMart and other retailers and delivery services also rely on a fleet of independent contractors to make their deliveries.

Oh, Uber and Lyft do this too, but that’s a separate story that happens frequently in our new “gig economy.”

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