Can Trucking Companies Be Held Liable for Inexperienced Drivers?
Experience matters behind the wheel, especially in places like Houston. More time driving helps you read road conditions and know what you should and shouldn’t do in the driver’s seat. That’s a given for normal commuters, but that’s doubly true for people driving 18-wheelers and big rigs.
Sadly, the trucking industry hires a number of inexperienced and unfit drivers to operate their vehicles. The results can be tragic.
If you were in a crash with an inexperienced truck driver, our legal teams in Sugar Land, Richmond, and Katy, TX, can help. I want to look at who is liable for truck crashes caused by driver inexperience. I also want to consider if this is an industry-wide issue rather than a case of a few bad apples.
The Trucking Companies Can Be Held Liable for Unfit Drivers
While a truck driver may be behind the wheel at the time of a crash, the trucking company they work for can ultimately be held liable for negligence in their hiring practices.
The argument is that the trucking company failed to properly screen the driver, which contributed to the accident occurring. In this sense, the trucking company could have prevented the auto wreck had they been more careful in evaluating a potential new hire.
Examples of Negligent Hiring Practices
Some examples of negligent hiring practices by trucking companies include:
- Failure to note a lack of on-the-job training or experience
- Failure to check for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) violations
- Failure to note a driver’s past moving violations, DWI arrests, and criminal activities involving a vehicle
- Failure to assess a truck driver’s general ability to perform their job
Investigating the Cause or Causes of a Truck Accident
A driver’s lack of experience may be just one of many causes of a truck accident. There may have also been an issue with truck maintenance and repairs that contributed to an accident, or even a problem with dangerous road conditions and poor traffic signals.
This is why the truck accident investigation process is so crucial to building a case. An investigation will examine the scene of the collision and any available evidence, review the truck driver’s employment history and file, and go over any data collected by the event data recorder (EDR), which is essentially the truck’s black box.
The process will help note the various causes of a truck accident to establish who should be held liable for a crash and help determine the value of your accident case.
Assessing Proportionate Responsibility in a Truck Crash
Keep in mind that Texas works on a modified comparative fault rule for injury cases. Even if you are partially at fault for a crash happening, you can still file a lawsuit and seek damages.
Your amount of fault in the crash just has to be 50% or less. That said, the amount of fault in a trucking accident case will affect how much you’d receive in a jury verdict.
Holding the Trucking Industry Accountable
Trucking companies are powerful business interests. They have strong legal teams in place, and their insurance companies could try to force you into accepting a lowball settlement offer.
When you have a skilled commercial big rig crash attorney on your side, you can level the playing field.
If you were hit by an 18-wheeler or any kind of commercial truck or shipping vehicle, you can count on our legal teams in Sugar Land, Richmond, and Katy to help you with an accident claim.
A Damning 2022 Report on Truck Driving Training
While inexperienced truck drivers can be held liable for their negligent behavior, we should also look hard at the trucking companies that fail to protect other people on the road. In fact, these companies may be preying on would-be truck drivers.
That was the crux of a February 2022 Time Magazine report on the lack of national safety standards for truck drivers. Let’s go over some major takeaways from that piece.
Problems with the Current System
Someone as young as 18 years old can become a truck driver if they pass a written test, a driving test, and a medical exam. There is no minimum amount of properly supervised time spent behind the wheel on the road. Technically, all you need is a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
Time quoted Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), a group founded in 1973 to help protect the rights of small-business truckers. “We don’t want to do the hard things in this industry, which is spending extra money, taking extra time to train people to safely operate trucks,” he said. Pugh was a truck driver himself for 22 years.
Flawed Mentorship and Training Practices
A new truck driver could get paired with an experienced driver, but that experienced truck driver may just be sleeping in the passenger seat while the new driver takes the wheel without getting the advice they need.
The new driver may also be subject to abuses of power from the older driver they’ve been paired with. If a new driver rubs that experienced driver the wrong way, it could get them blacklisted from future jobs.
Dangers for Women Who Enter the Trucking Industry
Abuses of power within the trucking industry can also take the form of sexual harassment and assault.
The Time piece notes cases of women in the trucking industry facing assault and abuse from their trainers. In one of the examples in the story, a truck driver training school would only consider a claim of sexual misconduct valid if it could be corroborated by a third party.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos: Why Real-World Behind-the-Wheel Training Matters
The Time report noted the case of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, the 23-year-old truck driver who killed four people in Colorado when he lost control of his semi in mountainous terrain, resulting in a fiery multi-vehicle collision.
According to Aguilera-Mederos’ defense lawyer, he received no formal training for driving on mountain passes. Had there been some behind-the-wheel training for driving in steep, mountainous terrain, perhaps this tragedy could have been prevented.
Poor Screening Process for New Truck Drivers
In addition to the lack of training, we have to look at Aguilera-Mederos’ age. He reportedly received his CDL just 11 months before the crash in April 2019. On top of that, he only received his regular driver’s license two years before his CDL.
This should give us pause to consider how trucking companies operating around the Houston area screen potential drivers. Are they considering the age and experience of these drivers and the routes they’re sent on? Have they looked at records to determine if they have a driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrest in their past or a history of reckless driving?
The Main Takeaway: This Is an Industry That Needs Reform
Reading that piece and considering the cases I’ve worked on over the years, it’s clear that the trucking industry needs to change. Reforms mean better safety for drivers and other people who share the road. Reforms also mean the trucking industry would pour less money into litigation because of poor hiring standards and practices.
When or if that change comes remains to be seen. Civil litigation could help push for much-needed change in the trucking industry by hitting trucking companies where it hurts.
National Failings Can Have Local Consequences
This lack of training standards could have major consequences for people in and around Sugar Land, Richmond, and Katy. There are so many large trucks on local highways like Interstate 69 and Interstate 10 en route to Houston. As the population in the Houston area expands, these dangers could increase.
This is why it’s imperative to work with tractor-trailer crash lawyers you can trust. By holding trucking companies accountable for their hiring practices, we can help move the needle and bring much-needed reforms to the industry. Yet more importantly, we can help injury accident victims receive a fair settlement or legal compensation to cover medical expenses, property damage, and other losses associated with the collision.
Why You Need a Truck Accident Lawyer
Don’t go it alone against the trucking industry. Trucking companies have strong legal teams in place, and civil litigation can be confusing and time-consuming. Instead of seeing your case through on your own, it’s important to have proven attorneys familiar with the auto accident lawsuit process.
Leverage During Settlement Negotiations
Insurance companies will try to undervalue your injuries and the nature of your legal claim. The initial settlement offers provided could be far less than your case is actually worth.
If you’ve been a lawyer as long as I have, you know what a dollar is really worth. By noting your injuries and losses, we can let you know if the offer you’ve been given is worth accepting. If not, we can demand more based on facts and what we’ve learned from our years fighting for injury victims and their families.
Knowledge of State and Federal Truck Accident Laws
Trucking accident cases can get very complicated because of the nature of interstate commerce. One has to consider federal laws and regulations as well as various relevant state statutes.
When we work on a commercial trucking case, we can consider all existing federal laws that apply to the case. We also consider any state-specific laws that could have a bearing on the lawsuit. That includes laws from Texas as well as neighboring or nearby states like Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Arkansas.
Peace of Mind During the Legal Process
Working on a case takes a lot of time. That means hours in a day as well as days in a year. Some cases take months and months to settle, and this can stretch out to years if the case goes all the way to trial.
If you’re not a lawyer, you don’t know what to expect and likely do not have the endurance to see things through. A lawyer like myself will have the fortitude and legal acumen to stick with your case. As the legal work unfolds, you and your family can concentrate on healing or, in the case of fatal commercial truck accidents, grieving.
What Sets Our Law Office Apart from the Competition
With so many car accidents happening in and around Houston, you have a lot of choices when it comes to legal representation. However, I think there are some key factors that set this law firm apart. Whether you visit our office in Sugar Land, Richmond, or Katy, you can count on us.
We Offer Free Legal Consultations
Some people don’t want to speak with a lawyer about their injuries or medical bills because they’re afraid of the cost. Well, at this law firm, the initial consultation is absolutely free.
The first case review allows you to tell your story. We’ll listen, and then determine if you have a case that’s worth pursuing. This will help you understand what legal options are available to you after the accident.
We Provide Representation on a Contingency Fee Basis
If Travis Terry and I work on your case, you don’t have to pay a retainer. In fact, you won’t have to pay any attorney fees upfront.
You will only pay for our legal services if we can negotiate a fair settlement or win your case in court.
We make high-quality legal counsel available to everyone in the greater Houston area regardless of their income. Your case is important to us.
We Have a Proven Record of Legal Success
Thanks to our efforts, we’ve secured millions of dollars for our clients. This includes six-figure and seven-figure courtroom verdicts and pre-trial settlements.
Keep in mind that the lawsuit results we’ve listed are just some of the cases we’ve worked on over the years. Travis and I have practiced personal injury law since 1994, so we bring decades of legal know-how to every case.
Need to Speak with a Lawyer?
Contact Our Law Offices Today
If you were in a crash caused by an inexperienced truck driver, you can count on this Houston-area law office for assistance. Our locations in Sugar Land, Richmond, and Katy are ready to help. To set up a free case review, contact our law firm today.
About Jackson R. Reed
Attorney Jackson R. Reed has served clients since 1994. He is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA), the Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA), the Houston Trial Lawyers Association (HTLA), and the State Bar of Texas.