Smith + Schwartzstein
Located In Morristown, NJ and New York, NY

How trucking companies can avoid negligent hiring suits

Virtually all trucking companies are dealing with a shortage of qualified drivers. As a result, many have relaxed their standards and loosened their age restrictions in order to have enough drivers to meet the demand for their services.

However, unqualified, reckless, negligent drivers can prove far more costly to companies than having to turn down work. Truck crashes often result in serious injuries and fatalities, not to mention significant property damage.

Trucking companies can be held responsible for harm caused by their drivers, and these lawsuits can cost them dearly. Juries are more likely to be sympathetic to a victim who is dealing with life-long disability or a family mourning the death of a loved one than to the company who hired the driver who caused the crash.

If a company was engaging in negligent hiring practices that put at least one unqualified driver behind the wheel, that can factor into how much the company will have to pay the victims. Two-thirds of negligent hiring cases decided in a trial involve damage awards of over $600,000.

Companies can help avoid charges of negligent hiring by setting strict hiring standards and sticking to them. Your hiring policies should be in writing, and hiring managers and recruiters need to follow them.

Background checks are a must. Employers should always get an applicant's Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) and Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) reports and have documentation showing that they did so.

Companies need to show that they take the appropriate disciplinary action when a driver receives a violation. It's also essential to pay attention to red flags about a driver. Don't automatically dismiss what other drivers tell you as gossip. Often drivers are the first to spot dangerous practices among their colleagues.

Make sure your drivers have the experience needed for the job they're doing. A driver may have been qualified for the job he or she was hired for. However, before you change that driver's responsibilities, consider whether some additional training is in order.

Don't wait until tragedy strikes to put these practices into place. An experienced New Jersey attorney can help you ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to ensure that your drivers are up to the task and that you have the documentation to back up your best practices. This can prove valuable should you find yourself on the wrong side of a negligent hiring suit.

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