Texas’ Push To Protect Trucking Companies Leaves Drivers On The Hook
A new bill proposed in the Texas Senate would reduce jury awards in lawsuits against the trucking industry. The bill is being hailed by business-first activists as a way to reduce costs related to logistics. On the other side of the debate are personal injury attorneys, truck drivers, and those who are injured by the negligent maintenance of trucks or the negligent operation of large commercial trucks. Why are truckers opposed to the bill? Well, while their employers are being insulated from “nuclear verdicts”, civil (and even criminal) liability still falls on the trucker.
Key legal concepts
The trucking industry is complexly structured. Not all truckers are employees of a specific company. Many are self-employed and provide logistics as contractors to other companies. While some truckers own their truck outright, others use their employer’s equipment.
Under the law, an employer is responsible for the conduct of their employee through a concept known as vicarious liability. While corporate personhood allows corporations to have the same rights as people, it also forces corporations to act as a single unified entity. So corporate personhood is a bit of a double-edged sword. If a trucker who is an employee of a company causes an accident, the company is responsible for the accident. The trucking company usually carries a large commercial auto insurance policy to insure their truckers against these accidents and mitigate the cost of lawsuits.
When a truck driver causes an accident, the injured party hires an attorney to litigate the claim against the trucker’s employer’s insurer. Generally, a settlement is reached.
However, in Texas especially, there were certain bad actors who were negligently training drivers. During deliveries, these truckers caused multiple deaths for which they were sued. One of the resulting jury verdicts went in excess of $10 million. The verdict sent shockwaves through the trucking industry, but it wasn’t the first time this particular company was hit with a nuclear verdict. The company was a repeat offender.
The new Texas law?
The law, if passed, would require plaintiffs to prove that the trucking company was “grossly negligent”. If the trucking company were not “grossly negligent” then liability would pass to the individual truck driver. So the only people who are supporting this bill are a handful of CEOs that operate trucking companies.
Meanwhile, those injured by negligent drivers would be forced to file a claim on the driver’s insurance (if they have any). Most truckers are insured through their company. The new legislation would do away with the requirement that commercial trucking companies must carry insurance policies. That financial burden would shift to their employees.
Talk to a Florida Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident with a commercial vehicle, call the Coral Gables tire defect attorneys at Halpern, Santos & Pinkert today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.