A federal district court ruled earlier this year that the plaintiffs’ claim alleging a freight company’s liability for injuries sustained in an accident caused by the negligence of a driver employed by another company hired to transport materials on the freight company’s behalf should be heard by a jury. In the case of Beavers v. Victorian, the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma rejected the defendants’ arguments that a motor carrier could not be held liable for negligently hiring an “independent contractor” that was at fault for injuries sustained in a semi truck accident.
The accident that led to the case occurred in February of 2011 in Colorado, when a car being driven by the two plaintiffs, a husband and wife, was hit by a semi-truck that they allege was being negligently operated by an incompetent driver. Both the husband and wife were seriously hurt and suffered traumatic brain injury as a result of the accident. The couple sued several parties to obtain compensation for the costs and loss associated with their injuries.
A lawsuit for negligence was filed against the truck driver and the company he worked for, but the company employing the driver was relatively small and new, and the plaintiffs were unlikely to be fully compensated by this smaller company and the driver alone. Therefore, the plaintiffs also sued the larger freight company that contracted with the smaller company and the driver involved in the accident. The complaint alleged that the larger company was vicariously liable for the driver’s negligence, and also that the larger company was negligent in hiring the smaller company, and therefore responsible for the damages sustained in the accident.
Large Companies Can Avoid Liability by Employing “Independent Contractors”
The larger freight company’s defense centered on the fact that the company employing the driver at fault was hired as an independent contractor for the work leading to the accident, and therefore the larger company could not be held liable vicariously for damages from the accident. The Court agreed with the defendants that no exceptions applied to the general rule that a party who hires an independent contractor will not be held liable for the independent contractor’s negligence, and the case alleging the larger company’s vicarious liability for the accident was dismissed.
The Plaintiffs’ Allegation of Negligent Hiring
The Court next addressed the plaintiffs’ arguments that the larger company was guilty of negligently hiring the smaller company and driver involved in the accident. Although the larger company was not held vicariously liable for the negligence of the independent contractor in their employ, the Court found that they could still be held responsible for negligently hiring the independent contractor.
To hold a company liable for negligent hiring, a plaintiff must demonstrate that an employer knew or should have known that the employee was not competent and able to do the work without creating an unreasonable risk of injury to others.
The Court found that the plaintiffs presented a triable issue of fact on this claim. They considered that the larger company did not verify the driver’s insurance or inquire with the smaller company regarding the experience of their drivers. Furthermore, the larger company did not request any credentials or maintenance and safety records from the smaller company, which had only existed for eight months at the time they were hired. The Court held that a reasonable jury could find that the larger company was negligent for not conducting a sufficient inquiry into the competence of the independent contractor before hiring them, and that the case should continue to trial.
The Difficulty of Some Accident Cases
Although these plaintiffs may recover damages from the larger company in this Oklahoma case that arose from a semi-truck crash in Colorado, it can sometimes be difficult to hold all of the parties that should be held responsible for a truck accident. A New Mexico semi-truck accident may involve several companies and independent contractors that could possibly be held responsible simultaneously. Accident victims may not know that a larger company had contracted with the company involved in an accident and could be held responsible. Because of this, victims often accept settlement offers from smaller trucking companies without realizing that more defendants may be held responsible than it appears.
Have You Been in an Accident?
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an accident involving a semi-truck or freight company, you may find that getting fairly compensated for the loss is much more difficult than it should be. The dedicated New Mexico accident lawyers at The Fine Law Firm are experienced in trying semi-truck accident cases, and we know what it takes and where to look to get our clients the compensation that they deserve. We pride ourselves in the personal service that we offer our clients, and one of our attorneys would be happy to talk about your case free of charge. The Fine Law Firm handles all types of New Mexico personal injury cases, including semi-truck crashes. Contact us online or by phone at (585)-889-3463 today to schedule a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Bicyclist Hit and Seriously Injured By Garbage Truck in Albuquerque Last Month., New Mexico Truck Accident Lawyer Blog, July 7, 2014.
Distracted Driver Causes Crash on Interstate 25 That Leaves One Dead, New Mexico Truck Accident Lawyer Blog, June 5, 2014.