When a company is negligent in its hiring practices and one of its drivers causes a serious accident, that company may be liable to compensate accident victims for their injuries and other losses. At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., we have extensive experience representing people who suffered serious injuries in accidents involving commercial trucks and obtaining the compensation they deserve. Our Houston truck accident lawyers fight to hold trucking companies accountable when their negligence results in injuries to people like you.
Over the last several years, the oil and natural gas boom in Texas has certainly been good for the economy. These industries bring jobs that support Texas families and communities. But there are hidden costs to the oil and gas boom that many people may not realize.
A 2015 report produced by Texas A&M University showed a strong correlation between increases in oil and natural gas drilling activity and commercial vehicle crashes. In the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale regions, where well drilling has significantly boomed in recent years, the number of truck crashes had increased by 52 percent and 61 percent respectively. Additionally, areas that saw a drop in well drilling also saw a drop in the number of commercial vehicle crashes.
Well drilling may be so strongly linked to truck crashes simply because of increased activity. More trucks are moving in and out of these areas, which means more potential for accidents. Another factor may be that companies scrambling to keep up with the boom are hiring drivers who aren’t properly qualified to operate large, heavy trucks. Companies may fail to run appropriate background checks and hire drivers who have a history of traffic violations or accidents, or who aren’t properly licensed to drive commercial vehicles.
What is “Negligent Hiring?”
Negligent hiring refers to the practice of a commercial trucking operator allowing a less-than-competent or under-qualified driver to do a job that requires professional skill, training, and certification. Most people understand that truck drivers must go through extensive training and practice before they operate a large 18-wheeler or tractor-trailer on a public road.
If a truck driver is not adequately trained, but the commercial trucking company allows that driver to operate a large and complex commercial vehicle, that employer may be held liable for an accident resulting from the driver’s incompetence. Despite the company’s management not being present at the accident or directly behind the wheel, their actions — or inactions — may allow them to be held responsible for damages resulting from a collision.
Federal Hiring Regulations For Trucking Companies
An allegation of negligent hiring is one way to establish liability on the part of a commercial trucking company in a personal injury lawsuit. Negligent hiring may mean that the trucking company hired a driver who fails to meet the minimum safety standards for operating a commercial truck or has been disqualified from commercial driving.
When a company hires a driver, the company must follow certain procedures detailed in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Those include:
- Performing a driving record check in each state where the driver has held a driver’s license in the last 3 years
- Performing a background check on the driver’s safety performance history for the last 3 years with employers regulated by the Department of Transportation
These are more than just quick online searches. These background checks should be thorough, and may include the use of in-person or telephone interviews, letters, or other methods. Additionally, the hiring employer is required to keep a record of the means it used to check a potential employee’s background, and to report to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration when a prior employer fails to answer a request for information.
The regulations also list what information the potential employer should seek. That includes:
- Driver identification
- Employment verification
- Data on accidents involving the driver within the past 3 years
- Any alcohol or substance abuse violations by the driver
- The driver’s failure to successfully complete any required drug or alcohol rehab
- Any drug or alcohol test failures or refusals if the driver did complete drug or alcohol rehab
Additionally, starting in July 2015 the FMSCRs required that a trucking company keep on file the driver’s medical certification showing that the driver had been examined by a physician listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. Truck drivers also are required to carry their medical cards showing they’ve been certified by a medical examiner.
When a trucking company fails to perform the required background investigations or to seek the required information about a driver prior to hiring, the company may be liable under the theory of negligent hiring if the driver then causes a serious accident while driving one of the company’s trucks.
Negligent Hiring Practices
In some truck accident cases, the company may prioritize profit over safety. Vital background checks and other verifications can be expensive and time-consuming for a commercial truck operation that just wants to get more drivers out on the road. Some questions that may arise around a commercial trucking company’s hiring practices include:
- Did the driver have a valid commercial driver’s license at the time of the accident?
- What were the driver’s driving qualifications and how were they verified?
- Did the driver submit to and pass drug testing prior to employment?
- Did the driver have a criminal history or a history of motor vehicle violations?
- Did the driver have a history of drug use or alcohol-related incidents?
- Was the driver medically qualified to drive a tractor-trailer or other large truck?
- Was the driver involved in other catastrophic or injury-inducing accidents?
- Does the company have a reputation in the industry for hiring unqualified drivers?
The company’s answers may demonstrate negligent hiring practices that ultimately resulted in your injury.
In addition to negligent hiring, a trucking company may be guilty of negligent retention. Negligent retention involves a commercial trucking operation continuing to employ a truck driver who is not qualified or capable of driving safely after the trucking company knows the driver’s training, certification or health is inadequate.
When a trucking company negligently retains unqualified drivers, the company may be liable to compensate you for your injuries or other losses caused by their driver.
How We Can Help with Accidents From Negligently Hired Drivers
When you hire the Houston truck accident attorneys at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. for help with your case, one of the first steps we’ll take is a detailed investigation into the trucking company’s hiring practices to look for evidence of negligence.
When we find evidence of negligence, we fight to hold the company accountable and to obtain the maximum possible compensation for your injuries. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to obtain compensation for your medical costs, loss of earning capacity, physical pain, physical limitations, disfigurement, and mental anguish.
To learn more about what our team of skilled Houston truck accident attorneys can do to help you in the wake of a catastrophic truck accident, call us at 281-283-8500 or fill out the contact form below. We offer a free initial consultation and charge no fees unless we obtain compensation for your injuries, meaning there’s no financial risk for you to discuss or file a lawsuit. Contact us today for your free appointment.