How Negligent Entrustment Applies to Maryland Trucking Accidents

Most Maryland residents who own or drive a passenger car know first-hand how busy our state's roadways can be at times. One of the busiest times, rush hour, can bring increases in vehicle volume, which at times can seem very chaotic, especially when one adds to the mix drivers who are too distracted or preoccupied to consider other people's safety, or truckers who are too focused on meeting a cargo delivery deadline in another city.

Unfortunately, whether one is creeping along on a city street in Gaithersburg, Annapolis or Bowie; or fighting traffic on the crowded beltway between Baltimore and the District, accidents can crop up at the most inopportune time. The combination of dense traffic and highway speeds can provide the prefect conditions for a serious car or truck wreck. A single mistake by the driver of any single vehicle can involve numerous cars, trucks or other vehicles and result in multiple injuries to their occupants.

When an interstate or expressway crash involves a commercial truck, such as a gasoline tanker, car transporter or other 18-wheel tractor-trailer, the odds of more than one person being hurt are quite high. Even under typical circumstances -- when only passenger vehicles are involved -- injuries can range from simple cuts and bruises to head and back injuries or broken bones; however, road accidents that involve a big rig semi, or even a large, fully-loaded box-style delivery truck, can be much more destructive, and with more serious injuries as a result.

As passenger car drivers ourselves, the legal staff at the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, shares everyone's concern for improved highway safety. We remind drivers and pedestrians alike that tractor-trailers and other large commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) should be given a wide berth whenever possible. But when a collision does happen, if negligence is suspected on the part of the trucker, then we recommend that the victim or his family speak to a qualified legal professional with expertise in the area of commercial trucking accidents.

As Baltimore car, truck and motorcycle injury lawyers, we recognize that every traffic accident is different. The circumstances, the vehicles involved and the victims' injuries are each unique for every crash that takes place here in Maryland. Fault, as well, varies depending on the situation and the various aspects of the particular traffic collision. On this subject, Maryland's legal statutes allow for a trucking company who employs a commercial truck driver to be held responsible for that individual's negligent actions that led to an injury or death.

This legal doctrine, known as "negligent entrustment," has been a component of our state's system of laws since 1934. In brief, negligent entrustment is one of several causes of action that Maryland personal injury attorneys can bring against one or more parties on behalf of auto or trucking accident victims. In simple terms, negligent entrustment provides that the entrustor (such as a trucking firm) can be found responsible for the actions of the entrustee (usually the firm's employee) because it negligently provided the entrustee with dangerous instrumentality (such as an 18-wheel semi) that caused an injury or death to a third party.

The legal theory behind negligent entrustment is actually quite useful when filing a personal injury lawsuit against a commercial trucking company in the wake of a serious crash caused by one of firm's drivers. In fact, the potential for legal action against a trucking company is reflected in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (specifically Part 391, Subpart C) pertaining to a trucking company's responsibility when hiring its drivers. In the CFR, the section titled "Background of Character" sets forth the rules that must be followed by trucking fleet owners and other transportation companies when hiring a commercial truck driver to operate one of its vehicles.

The regulations in the CFR essentially place an affirmative duty on trucking companies to make certain that their drivers will not be a risk to themselves or the general public when operating a commercial vehicle. More importantly, this rule doesn't let the trucking company off the hook legally simply because the firm "did not know or had no reason to suspect that a driver was a risk"; instead, a trucking firm must have done its due diligence to determine whether or not a potential employee would pose a risk as a driver working for that company.

As experienced auto and trucking accident lawyers, Lebowitz & Mzhen know that if a personal injury claim is filed against a trucking company, there is a very good chance that the firm may be found negligent if the driver (the entrustee) had a history that made a commercial trucking crash foreseeable. However, it must be remembered that the actual litigation using the theory of negligent entrustment can be somewhat complicated depending on the circumstances surrounding the crash.

For instance, if a trucking company hired a driver who had a record of drunk driving, but the accident that took place was caused by that individual's failure to yield at an intersection, not because the driver was intoxicated, the trucking company could avoid being held liable because the accident was not caused by drinking and driving. Of course, other options exists as well, many of which a skilled commercial trucking injury lawyer will often review before choosing a course of action when preparing to file a personal injury claim.

As can be seen from the simple example above, the law can provide numerous opportunities for filing an injury claim. As commercial trucking accident lawyers, our legal team is trained in the area of personal injury, as well as insurance law. In order to assist our clients as best as possible, we prepare each claim with the full intent of going to trial. How well a lawsuit is prepared may also affect whether or not a case is settled out of court; if it is, this may help the victim and his family avoid the often emotionally exhausting proceedings that can accompany some personal injury and wrongful death cases.

If you or someone you love has been seriously hurt in a traffic-related injury accident, we highly recommend that you speak to a qualified professional. Our Maryland personal injury attorneys are ready, willing and able to assist you with your legal claim following a trucking-related wreck. It has been our experience that speaking with a knowledgeable traffic accident injury lawyer can alleviate some of the trepidation that comes while considering a legal action against a large company. Please call us at (800) 654-1949 for a free, no-obligation consultation; or, you may arrange a meeting by e-mailing either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen.