We frequently run into situations where a person comes to our office after having an accident with someone who was on the job in a work vehicle. While there are many similarities with a regular car accident, there are key differences that need to be addressed in order to help recover the most amount of money for our injured client.
One of the key differences is insurance. In a typical car accident case, the other driver most likely has the minimum amount of liability insurance, either $30,000 per person in Texas or $25,000 per person in New Mexico. In a typical work a vehicle accident case, the insurance is usually much higher than the minimum limits. We have seen insurance limits as high as $1,000,000 or higher. In a major crash, the increased limits can help our injured client get necessary medical treatment and surgeries that may not be available in a typical car accident case.
In addition, in any lawsuit that we file involving an employee driving a work vehicle, we always sue the employer as well as the employee. An employer is liable for the conduct of its employee when the employee is working in the course and scope of his or her employment. This type of vicarious liability, known as respondeat superior, allows us to sue the employer and potentially access much deeper pockets than the employee. We have sued major publicly traded companies in order to get as much leverage as possible for our injured clients.
Employers of employee drivers could also be responsible for negligent hiring, training and supervision. If an employee has a bad driving record prior to employment, the employer should know of the bad driving record and not allow that driver to operate a company vehicle. We have also seen many situations where the employer failed to provide any training to its drivers on the rules of safe driving. This can lead to a lawsuit for negligent training of the driver.
There are many types of vehicles and situations where a company vehicle might cause an accident. Examples of cases we have handled:
- A travelling salesperson for a multinational company violated the safe driving rules and crashed with our client in a rental car.
- A construction worker in a work truck failed to yield the right of way by exiting a private drive into oncoming traffic and injured our client.
- A dump truck driver did not pay attention to road conditions and crashed into the rear-end of our client’s vehicle.
- An employee of a landscape company rammed his employer’s dually pickup truck into our the rear-end of our client’s vehicle necessitating our client’s need for a neck surgery.
- A taxicab driver failed to follow the rules of the road and slammed into our client causing neck and back injuries.
- A delivery driver for a local restaurant rear-ended our client causing significant spinal injuries.
- An employee of a television production company ran a stop light and ran a production RV into our client’s car causing surgeries and other major medical treatment.
Another major type of work vehicle accidents is those involving 18-wheeler tractor trailers. The federal laws that governs 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles are called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. If you are involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler, it is crucial that you hire a lawyer that is very familiar with the FMSCAs and has experience dealing with these types of cases. Federal law requires commercial vehicles to carry much more insurance than a personal liability insurance policy. The driver of an 18-wheeler is called a “statutory employee” of the owner of the 18-wheeler. Thus, generally, the owner of the 18-wheeler is subject to liability and damages to the injured person regardless of whether the driver is an employee or an independent contractor of the owner of the rig. The FMSCAs have many regulations that are designed to protect the motoring public, including limits on the hours of service, driver qualifications, bans on the use of hand held mobile devices, driving in bad weather and many, many more. This article is not meant to delve into all of the requirements of the FMCSAs and tractor-trailer crashes; however, it is important to know that these types of accidents are not simple car accidents and there are many sources of potential recovery in these types of cases.
Our firm has handled just about every type of work company vehicle accidents. We have handled catastrophic crashes that involve loss of life and life-altering injuries. We have also handled cases involving minor injuries where treatment cured the injuries of our client. As a result of our experience, there are a few generalities that come to mind. In a major crash, the insurance company for the company will use all available resources to limit its insured’s liability and minimize damages. Most of these cases require us to file a lawsuit and hire experts on the issue of liability and damages. On minor accident cases, we have found that the insurance company will generally agree to pay more money to our injured client in order to avoid filing a lawsuit. While these are generalities, we have been able to settle major cases pre-lawsuit and we have had to file lawsuits on minor injury claims. Regardless, Harmonson Law Firm is dedicated to helping both clients with major injuries or minor injuries and you should not try to fight the insurance company and the company involved alone.
In summary, if you have been in an accident with the driver of a company vehicle, there are many avenues to explore, including finding out how much insurance is involved and discovering who to sue. Special rules apply to work vehicle accidents and you should hire a lawyer with experience to maximize the value of your claim. If you have any questions about your specific situation, please feel free to give attorney Clark Harmonson of the Harmonson Law Firm a call at (915) 584-8777 or contact us online.