Shipper Liability For Truck Crash Injuries

If you were seriously injured or lost a loved one because of a truck wreck you need experienced legal help. Truck crashes are not like car crashes, and require more investigation and legal knowledge. It’s important that your attorney conduct a search for all possible responsible parties and insurance.  Besides the motor carrier and driver many other businesses in the supply chain may be legally liable for the wreck. These other parties’ liability must be explored fully, or you could miss out on a complete financial recovery.

This article discusses shipper liability in truck crash injury cases. Shippers are companies that sends or transports goods by land, sea or air. Shippers use third parties to transport the goods. Sometimes shippers deal directly with motor carriers to arrange for transportation, however the growing trend is for shippers to use third party logistic companies or (3PLs). These logistics companies are often brokers, but may include freight forwarders who may consolidate loads and coordinate all or part of transportation needs of the shipping company. The arrangements may be made as one time arrangements, under longer term contractual armaments. Some shippers have entered relationships with 3PLs where employees of the 3PL are imbedded in the shipper’s company and take direct control of the operations.

Shippers are directly involved in the transportation business. Transportation is defined by the federal government to include movement or transportation involving a motor vehicle, vessel, instrumentality or equipment. It also includes services related to the movement including arranging for, receipt, deliver, transfer handling, packing and unpacking. Shipper liability for truck crash injuries related to transportation can arise from several different facts situations.

Shippers May be Liable for Improper Loading

Shippers frequently will load the trailer, secure the freight, and seal the trailer. The driver or the motor carrier’s agent may not have any involvement in the loading process. Some shippers do not even allow a driver onto their loading dock. Under such circumstances the load and accountability for the freight count rests with the shipper. The driver and motor carrier may also have responsibility for the loading if they had an opportunity to inspect and remedy any issues.

Shippers are generally liable for injuries caused by shifting or falling freight when they loaded the trailer. The way a trailer is loaded can also affect the handling of the vehicle leading to serious injuries or deaths. Sometimes an improperly loaded trailer can be detected by the carrier and the situation addressed. However, sometime an improper loaded trailer will not be apparent until it is too late.

Shippers May be Liable for Negligent Hiring

A shipper must hire a competent motor carrier. If a shipper hires an incompetent motor carrier the shipper can be liable for the damages and injuries caused by the motor carrier. To mitigate this risk and save lives responsible shippers investigate several factors:

(1) the motor carrier’s authority.

(2) safety rating.

(3) licensing.

(4) registration.

(5) insurance.

(6) safe operating record.

A shipper could also be held liable if its own experience with a motor carrier indicates it is operating its business in an unsafe or illegal manner. Shippers should be suspicious of carriers who offer rates significantly below other carriers, have poor safety records, or make trips in time frames that suggest they are violating hours of service regulations. A complete and thorough investigation by the injured party’s attorney can often show these red flags existed but where not acted upon.

Shippers May be Liable for Their Agents

Shippers, like other businesses may be held liable for the negligent acts of their agents. Motor carriers such as independent owner operators may be held to be an agent of the shipper under certain circumstances. The agent must be acting in the course and scope of his agency at the time of the event which negligently caused the injury. To be within the course and scope of the agency the acts must be part of the work which the agent was retained to accomplish and must be done to serve the interests of the master.

The agent does not have to be an employee of the shipper for liability to be imposed. The most important factor is whether the principal has the right to control the agent. If the principal has no right to control or direct the agent then the principal is not liable for the injuries caused by the agent unless the act was done in the manner directed or authorized by the principal. Blunkall v. Heavy and Specialized Haulers, Inc., 398 S.W. 3d 354 (Mo. App 2013).

Gump & Faiella has been representing Missouri injury victims and their families for decades. We offer a free consultation so you can learn about your legal options. We offer contingency fees so you will only be responsible for fees and expenses if we recover money for your case. We also offer in home appointments if you are not able to meet at our offices. If you or a family member has suffered harm from a truck collision let us help. 800-264-3455







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