Motor vehicle accidents involving commercial vehicles can bring up complicated questions about who is responsible for compensating victims. If you’ve been injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle, in addition to bringing claims against the driver, you may be able to file claims against the driver’s employer. In certain circumstances, this may include a claim for “negligent hiring” or “negligent retention.”
What Is a Negligent Hiring or Negligent Retention Claim?
A negligent hiring or retention lawsuit claims that a motor carrier company (a company that transports passengers or goods for compensation) violated its duties to keep the public safe. An injured plaintiff must prove the company that employed the driver either:
- Knowingly violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) or its own internal policies and procedures in hiring, retaining, and screening an unsafe driver, or
- Consciously disregarded the consequences of its actions in dispatching a driver with a significant record of safety violations, citations, or wrecks.
Essentially, this kind of lawsuit claims a company either knowingly or recklessly hired or continued to employ a driver who was a danger to public safety. Because they knew or should have known that their driver posed a hazard, the law will hold them responsible for the harm the dangerous driver caused.
How Does a Plaintiff Recover Damages in a Negligent Hiring or Retention Suit?
Negligent hiring and retention claims require the plaintiff to show the employer knew or should have known their employee was potentially dangerous. A motor carrier can be liable under Georgia law if it fails to ensure its driver-employees are safe to be on the roads. This duty exists both at the time of hiring and throughout the driver’s employment. If the motor carrier’s failure to ensure its drivers are safe is a proximate cause of (i.e., directly contributes to causing) a collision, injured victims can sue the motor carrier for breaching its duty.
A plaintiff does not have to show a motor carrier defendant actually knew that its driver was incompetent or unreasonably dangerous to succeed on a negligent hiring or retention claim. It is sufficient to show the company should have known the driver was incompetent or unreasonably dangerous. Federal law requires motor carriers to take reasonable steps to make sure drivers are safe and qualified, including:
- Making efforts to request personnel information from previous regulated motor carrier employers listed on the new driver’s application for the preceding three years.
- Obtaining a motor vehicle record of the new applicant from every state they held a permit for the previous three years.
- Annually inspecting a driver’s motor vehicle record for any significant moving violation convictions, especially violations like speeding, reckless driving, and operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that indicate the driver has exhibited a disregard for the public’s safety.
- Investigating whether a potential new driver had violated alcohol and controlled substance restrictions in the previous three years.
- Requiring a driver to submit to a required post-collision drug and alcohol screen.
To succeed in a negligent hiring or retention claim, a plaintiff must present evidence that a motor carrier was negligent. Examples include showing that the carrier failed to follow the regulations in screening a new driver, intentionally ignored a history of unsafe driving, failed to perform the required annual reviews, or ignored violations discovered in its reviews.
Injured in a Commercial Vehicle Accident?
Sorting out negligence and liability in a commercial vehicle accident can be complicated, and pursuing these claims often takes a long time. Because of the nature of the trucking industry, the parties to an accident may be based in different locations around the country. A driver might live in California, work for a company based in Delaware, and be involved in an accident in Georgia. Investigating occurrences and bringing claims for liability can be challenging and costly
If you have been injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle, you need a lawyer who knows what they’re doing and can vigorously represent your interests. The efficient, experienced team at the Cooper Law Firm represents injured plaintiffs in Georgia and all over the United States.