Holding Brokers and Shippers Liable in Trucking Accidents

Trucking accidents are often severe and lead to broken bones, internal injuries and, in severe cases, even death. People who have been involved in an accident with an 18 wheeler, tractor trailer, construction vehicle, or some other large commercial vehicle are often hospitalized weeks, and even months after the wreck. The accident can leave victims with physical disabilities and emotional trauma that can last a lifetime.

If you or someone you love was involved in a trucking accident, it’s important that you hire a skilled and experienced trucking accident injury lawyer as quickly as possible. At The Robenalt Law Firm, we will investigate the accident, identify the cause of the crash, and work hard to hold the responsible parties accountable for the harm they caused.

Establishing Corporate Negligence to Hold Trucking Companies Liable

Trucking accidents are unique because, unlike in a common car accident, you can sue corporate defendants directly. Also, because there are so many different entities involved in the trucking industry, it is likely that your lawyer will name multiple defendants, each of which should have an insurance policy in place to cover catastrophic losses as a result of a crash.

At The Robenalt Law Firm, we work tirelessly to uncover the people and companies responsible, and bring them to justice.

When we investigate the cause of a trucking accident, there are usually multiple companies that can and should be held responsible. In addition to the trucking company and, in some cases, the individual driver (sometimes known as the “owner operator”), brokers and shippers can often be held accountable for their role in contributing to a severe car crash.

To establish liability for a trucking accident, it’s important to consider the contracts between the shipper and the broker, and each party’s responsibility in transporting the load.

A shipper, a broker, and a motor carrier will each have different obligations. A motor carrier is vicariously liable for the negligence of any subcontractors it hires. However, because brokers and motor carriers often fill similar functions, the distinction is often blurred.

Brokers Can Be Liable for Negligently Hiring a Truck Driver or Trucking Company

A broker is the intermediary in the trucking industry who arranges the agreement between a shipper and the truck driver, owner operator, or trucking company. The broker connects the shipper with a trucking company so that goods can be transported.

The broker can be held liable for the actions of the trucking company it hired, especially if the broker retains oversight over any aspect of the work being performed. Broker liability can only be eliminated if the trucking company was truly operating as an independent contractor. This means that the broker must give up the right to supervise the delivery, including pick-up and delivery deadlines or appointments, invoicing protocols, insurance requirements, trailer condition requirements, and other items like accessorial charges and fuel surcharges. Brokers may even be held liable because of the expertise they exercise in choosing a trucking company or owner operator.

The broker can be held liable if he or she:

  • Fails to check the safety record of the owner operator or trucking company, or
  • Hires an owner operator or trucking company with a poor safety record or who has a history of truck accidents.

Typically the broker will be held responsible for negligently hiring the trucking company. In essence, the broker is in a position to know whether the trucking company has a good safety record, and is responsible for using due diligence to determine that the trucking company does, in fact, have a good safety record.

Shippers Are Liable for the Negligence of their Driver

The shipper can be held liable for the negligence of a driver, owner operator, or trucking company whose driver causes a crash. The shipper has an obligation to check the trucking company’s licensing, registration, insurance coverage, and safety record. The shipper can also be held liable if they are involved in loading the cargo and will be assumed to be involved in the loading process if the driver picks up an already sealed trailer. The shipper can be held liable if the load is not properly secured, or if the trailer is overloaded.

A shipper can also be held liable if it allows a carrier to violate rules of the Federal Motor Carrier safety regulations (FMCSR). Violations of the FMCSR include, for example, overloading trucks or setting delivery schedules that require drivers to exceed hours or service regulations.

A responsible shipper should verify the motor carrier’s safety record. Motor carriers are evaluated on the following categories:

  • Unsafe driving, including speeding, reckless driving, not using a seat belt, and other
  • Fatigued driving, including hours of service violations, logbook violations, and driving after being placed out of service
  • Driver fitness, including drivers that do not meet medical qualification, are unqualified, have improper CDL endorsements, and others
  • Controlled Substances/Alcohol, which includes violations for drivers who are under the influence or in possession of drugs or alcohol
  • Vehicle Maintenance violations for improper truck maintenance, defective brakes, tires, lights, etc.

The shipper also has an obligation to verify that the carrier has sufficient insurance coverage, including a commercial auto policy as well as cargo insurance coverage.

A Skilled Truck Accident Attorney Can Hold Brokers and Shippers Liable

A skilled and experienced trucking accident injury attorney understands how to hold brokers, shippers, and drivers or owner operators liable for negligently injuring other motorists. The ability to identify multiple defendants, each of which are required to carry large insurance policies, means that a skilled and experienced trucking accident injury lawyer can maximize your financial recovery.

Trucking accidents are complicated because many parties can be involved in a single crash. Shippers, brokers, truck equipment manufacturers, and others can all be held liable for a trucking accident.

If you’ve been hurt in an accident with truck, it’s important that you speak with a skilled and experienced Ohio trucking accident attorney as quickly as possible. Contact the experienced trucking accident attorneys at the Robenalt Law Firm today for a free consultation to discuss your case. Call 216-223-7535, complete our online form, or email trobenalt@robenaltlaw.com.

Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing trucking companies at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 20 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured to secure compensation for trucking accidents.