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Don’t overlook broker and shipper liability in 18-wheeler crash cases

In cases where you have a commercial carrier or driver responsible for a crash that injures or kills other drivers, do not overlook the area of broker liability. Broker liability provides an additional source of revenue in a lawsuit, as well as broker’s insurance. By examining this aspect of a case, you can help your client receive the maximum recovery for his or her injuries and losses.

When evaluating an 18-wheeler crash, remember there are several factors working in tandem:

  • The product / load that must be delivered;
  • The truck that carries the load and its driver;
  • A broker or brokerage company that matches the trucking company to the load.

About 40 percent of truck accidents involve a broker of the cargo. The question when that occurs is whether the broker is liable for the loss in your case. Most brokers believe that they cannot be considered a carrier because they do not own or lease trucks. That belief is simply wrong.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act at 49 U.S.C.A § 301 et seq., makes no such requirement. Likewise, a broker, who also has motor carrier authority, cannot guarantee delivery of a load and still maintain its status as a broker. A broker who is also authorized as a motor carrier runs a significant risk when it guarantees the load under 49 C.F.R. § 371.2.

There may be liability on the broker or shipper for their own conduct. The general rule is that a party is not liable for the negligence of its independent contractors.

One exception is that a broker may be liable for the negligent hiring of the motor carrier. Restatement Second of Torts § 411 provides that shippers and brokers are liable for “physical harm to third persons caused by failure to exercise reasonable care employ a competent and careful contractor (a) to do work which will involve a risk of physical harm unless it is skillfully and carefully done, or (b) to perform any duty which the party owes to third persons.”

For more information about evaluating an 18-wheeler accident involving a broker, or about heavy truck cases in general, contact Chris Glover.

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