As specialized injury lawyers we bring knowledge of many things that clients and lawyers who do not focus on injury work just are not tuned into. Its the specifics of the kind of case that can make a difference to your outcome. For example, in a trucking injury case, an inexperienced lawyer will often treat it as just “another car accident case but with a larger vehicles.” This is wrong. Trucking collision/commercial truck wreck injury cases are different factually and legally from car crashes.
The easiest example (of many) is in how the driving history of the trucker is handled.
Ordinary people like to know about the driving history (speeding tickets, prior wrecks etc.) of the other driver in a car crash case. It is a quite understandable desire. However, in car-crash cases that history is irrelevant because it will never be shared with the jury.
This is because under Idaho law (and that of other states as well) the issues in a car crash case are limited to 1) was the driver negligent; 2) did the negligence cause damages and, if so, 3) what is the amount of damages. The law says that how a driver acted on some other day at some other time does not provide a legal basis for finding the driver was negligent in your case. Thus, the jury isn’t told about the prior driving history because it is legally irrelevant to whether the bad guy was negligent that day, and whether that day’s negligence caused damages or the amount of damages.
In trucking and commercial crash cases the law is different for one very basic reason: the vehicle is usually owned or operated on behalf of a trucking company or corporation. The trucker is at work, and in the course of employment, when he causes the collision.
This means there is a direct claim against the corporation for what is called negligent entrustment. An employer can have direct responsibility for an injury if it improperly hired and/or retained a dangerous driver. Basically the allegation is the company knew or should have known that it wasn’t safe to allow the driver to operate their truck, but did it anyway. In such a case, the driver’s bad driving history is directly relevant to the issue of the company’s negligence.
This makes the hiring and employment process relevant so it can be determined if the driver was a danger. Many issues are important and must be explored in the lawsuit. Did the driver tell the truth about his prior record on the application? What did the company do to verify his statements? Did he notify the employer of accidents or traffic violations during the employment? Did the employer check his record? When? How often?
A negligent entrustment claim allows the injured person to have the jury judge the actions of the company. This can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case. In a case where the driver tries to escape responsibility, the individual incident can be evaluated in light of the dangerous history and the jury can see the larger pattern of the driver’s conduct.
This is not a winning issue in every case, or even in most cases. But it needs to be evaluated in every trucking and commercial vehicle case. A lawyer who does not do this type of work just won’t know to include the negligent entrustment claim or do the work necessary to evaluate and prove it. And, in the cases where it matters, it can be the difference between a fair recovery and losing.
If you have questions, call us for a free consultation. We help people all over Idaho.
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