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Trucking Company Held Liable for Not Performing Driver Background Check



A failure to properly screen potential truck drivers cost a trucking company $581,000 according to Hireright.com. Trucking companies are required by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act to obtain three-year driving and employment histories for every driver they hire. Not only can trucking companies be fined for not complying with the regulations, but these failures can also result in punitive damages awarded to plaintiffs injured by truck drivers.

The case involved a truck driver who ran a red light and struck two vehicles in 2007. The trucking company admitted that it failed to obtain the driving and employment histories required by federal regulations. The driver's history revealed that the driver had previously caused two rear-end collisions while driving a truck and received two citations for following vehicles too closely, and that his commercial driver's license had previously been suspended for 60 days. He had also received a ticket for speeding in a tractor-trailer just two months before the accident at trial. The driver admitted that he did not tell the trucking company about these prior accidents and citations when he applied for the job. To make things worse, it was discovered that the trucking company had destroyed all the driver's files and application shortly before answering the complaint.

Based on the evidence submitted, the court allowed the jury to consider whether punitive damages should be assessed against the trucking company. Punitive damages are allowed when a defendant's behavior has been especially outrageous. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter the defendant from acting similarly in the future. Although punitive damages are in addition to a plaintiff's provable damages, the plaintiff gets to keep the award. The jury in this case awarded the plaintiff $566,000 to compensate for injuries and losses. In addition, the jury awarded an extra $15,000 in punitive damages for the trucking company's negligent hiring of the driver.

If you or a family member has been injured in a trucking accident, you should consult with a trucking accident lawyer familiar with trucking law and regulations. In this case, the plaintiff's attorney's knowledge of federal trucking law resulted in an additional award of punitive damages for the plaintiff.