As many of you know, our firm specializes in representing the injured in personal injury cases, and within that is our subspecialty on commercial motor vehicle accidents.
If you’re going to handle a trucking case, you have to know truck industry standards and regulations backwards and forwards.
Like many of our trucking cases, this particular case came as a referral from another attorney. However, unlike most trucking cases, this one turned out to be the most technically complex that we’ve ever seen.
An Unqualified Truck Driver
The basic facts are simple. Our client was driving down I-44 when the truck driver in the lane to her right suddenly moved over into the lane and forced her off the road. However, once we dug deeper into the defendant truck driver’s background, we realized there was much more.
This truck driver was a foreign immigrant who came to the US, bought an 18-wheeler, and decided to go into the trucking business–despite having no experience.
The driver aligned himself with another immigrant who ran a “trucking company” that we quickly discovered was a sham operation.
Everything was ran by an owner who was not involved in day-to-day operations. Essentially, this company consisted of another foreign immigrant dispatching loads out of his apartment on a part-time basis in New York.
Naturally, there was no safety department; there was no one overseeing the truck drivers to ensure that they were following the safety regulations or that they were operating safely. It’s very scary.
In fact, the day of the crash was the first day that this truck driver had ever driven a tractor-trailer! Needless to say, he was very ill equipped to be doing so!
The Insurance Complications
What made this case even more unique is that on the day of the crash, the truck driver was not technically hauling a load for the company. Rather, he was driving the truck across country to have the transmission repaired.
Accordingly, the truck company’s lawyers and insurance adjusters said that the defendant driver was not operating on behalf of the truck company at the time of the crash, so they were not liable.
We argued they were liable based on the old doctrine of law in the trucking industry called DOT Liability. Since the truck was operating under the company’s DOT authority and had the company name on the side of the truck, the company remains liable for the negligence of the driver.
Adding to the complexity was the fact that the driver maintained his own policy of one million dollars, however, it only insured him when he was not driving on behalf of the company.
Under normal circumstances, it would appear that only one policy was going to apply. And that was the argument we got from the insurance companies. Earlier this year, the case went to mediation in an attempt to achieve a settlement from the insurance companies was $600,000. We knew we could do much better for our client.
The Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers Result
Over the course of litigation through a number of legal maneuvers, we were able to get both policies to apply. Ultimately, the companies agreed to pay a combined total of 1.3 million shortly before trial.
We’re very proud of our result in this case. It is another example of why attorneys need to have an intimate knowledge of trucking law and federal safety regulations if they are going to maximize their recovery for clients’ trucking cases.
We handle cases all across the country. If you know anyone injured in a tractor-trailer collision, please have them give us a call right away.