Last month, a Texas Jury from Upshur County awarded over $101 million in compensation to a man who was seriously injured in a truck accident. According to court records, the man had sued FTS International Manufacturing and one of its former drivers who rear-ended his pick-up truck in 2013.
As revealed in the lawsuit, a drug test performed by FTS International, a Fort Worth-based oil and gas shipping company, showed that the driver of the tractor-trailer had tested positive for drugs, and was found to be under the influence of methamphetamine and marijuana at the time of the crash. The victim’s attorneys argued that the driver was negligence for using drugs while operating a commercial truck, and that FTS International was also liable for not abiding by company protocol and commercial trucking regulations when hiring and maintaining the driver as an employee.
Following trial, the jury issued a unanimous verdict in which they found the driver 70% liable for the crash, and FTS International 30% liability. The man was awarded over $101 million in compensation, though FTS has reported that it intends to appeal the ruling.
Truck Accidents & Liability
The recent ruling out of Texas highlight several important issues about commercial trucking accidents, liability, and the rights of injured victims, including:
- Driver Negligence – Commercial truck drivers have immensely important jobs, and are required by law to carry out their day-to-day work in the safest way possible. Should trucker fail to abide by important regulations or otherwise act negligently and cause preventable injuries, they can themselves be held liable for victims’ damages. However, because individual truck drivers themselves do not always provide the full coverage or compensation victims require to cover their extensive injuries and damages, victims must often seek additional compensation through other liable parties.
- Trucking Company Liability – Ultimately, trucking companies are liable for the actions and conduct of their employees, and especially their drivers. These commercial trucking operators must ensure their drivers are not only qualified and specially licensed, but also that they are fit for duty and in compliance with all applicable trucking regulations. Should a trucking company hire or retain a driver who poses unreasonable risks to public safety, they can be held liable for damages and injuries those drivers later cause.
- Drug & Alcohol Regulations – Because commercial trucks are massive machines, it becomes vital that the individuals behind the wheels of those trucks are fit for duty. This means ensuring drivers are not only properly licensed and trained, but also that they refrain from drug and alcohol use in accordance to state and federal trucking regulations. An impaired or intoxicated trucker is a danger to everyone on public roadways, and truckers and their employers can be held liable for their failures to comply with drug and alcohol regulations.
As we have discussed on our blog, trucking regulations are critical to ensuring that truckers and trucking companies take all necessary steps to reduce risks they pose to the public. Unfortunately, as we see all too often, major truck accidents are often rooted in inexcusable acts of negligence, and violations of critical safety regulations involving rules on issues such as drug and alcohol testing for commercial drivers and trucker health certifications.
These regulations, in addition to many others, require both truckers and trucking companies do take steps in ensuring the safety of motorists with whom they share the road. As such, employers must ensure that truckers are fit and healthy enough to driver commercial vehicles, and that they do not have substance abuse problems, during the hiring process and periodically throughout their employment. Failures to take these steps can substantially increase the risk of preventable accidents, and result in trucking companies being held liable for accidents and injuries.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our Washington, DC truck accident lawyers are focused on protecting the rights of victims and families who suffer harm in all types of preventable tractor-trailer and commercial vehicle accidents throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. If you wish to discuss a potential case and learn more about your rights and who may be held responsible for your damages, call (202) 659-8600 or contact us online for a free consultation.