Recently, truck accidents implicating brokers have become far more common and widespread throughout Mississippi. In the past, brokers were able to avoid liability by claiming they hired carriers on an independent contractor basis, rather than as employees. However, due to the fact that the primary decision to determine the best carrier for the job, as a matter of road safety and transportation, rests in the hands of the broker, it was only a matter of time before plaintiffs were able to bring successful claims against brokers for their involvement as intermediaries.
The two most common theories relied on by plaintiffs to impute liability on brokers are the following:
- Negligent hiring. Under the theory of negligent hiring, a party may be held liable for failing to discern whether a particular carrier was properly qualified for the job. The law expects brokers to examine a carrier’s safety evaluation and statistics, as well as any internal records of the carrier’s safety performance. Failure to comply with minimum standard of due diligence may very well implicate a broker for its inadequate decision-making in hiring a carrier.
- Vicarious liability. The theory of vicarious liability holds broker liable for the acts of a third party as if he/she were standing in its shoes. A direct relationship is not required between the parties. Their mere relationship in certain, often dangerous and risky transactions, render them liable. This is a more complex theory to prove against an intermediary such as a freight broker. However, depending on the nature and expanse of the duties and responsibilities of a broker, and the dangers involved with this line of work, they could very well find themselves vicariously liable.
The burden of proof for vicarious liability in trucking cases follows a two-pronged approach. A plaintiff must demonstrate:
- First, that the carrier caused injury to person and/or property by acting with negligence, recklessness or intentional misconduct.
- Second, that the broker did not use reasonable care or execute due diligence when investigating the carrier for the job.
Whether negligent hiring or vicarious liability is at issue when a claim is brought against a broker, it is important to keep in mind that all transportation intermediaries must have acted prudently when contracting with service providers, such as truck carriers. Typically, this begins with reviewing the safety records and insurance of reputable carriers, and then selecting a company based on availability, load size, and destination, among other factors. Unfortunately, many brokers get caught up in maximizing their costs before due diligence with safety requirements, disregarding their duties as a company to protect against liability.
It is has now been established as a matter of public policy, that freight brokers will be held liable for the negligent acts of truck carriers they are responsible for hiring. Brokers may not evade liability for injuries and death merely because they elect to refer to themselves a broker and not a carrier. Congress and the Courts have unequivocally stated that public policy requires those who benefit monetarily from the shipping of goods are also culpable when a tort occurs in the pursuit of such profits.
Our staff of attorneys at the Giddens Law Firm can help you receive the recourse you deserve for injuries resulting from a truck accident. Contact us at 601-355-2022 for a free consultation on how we can help ensure your truck accident investigation is handled in the best way possible!