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A Trucking Company’s Use of an Unsafe Driver Leads to a $35M Punitive Damages Award from an Illinois Jury

In the past, this blog has informed readers about how they may potentially be able hold their rideshare service like Uber or Lyft liable for negligence for injuries riders suffer as a result of the rideshare service contracting with a driver that the service knew or should have known was unsafe. That type of liability, where an entity is held liable for negligently hiring and/or training a driver, even if that driver is an independent contractor, is not something that is limited to situations involving rideshare services. This technique may also be an important element of your successful Chicago truck accident case against a transportation company for the injuries you suffered as a result of an unsafe truck driver. Whether you were hurt by an unsafe Uber driver or an unsafe trucker, there may be many different ways to get the compensation you deserve, not just from the driver but from the entity that put that unsafe driver on the road.

Recently, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed a multi-million dollar jury verdict against a trucking company that employed a driver it knew or should have known was dangerous. A Michigan-based trucking company received an application from D.L.J., who was applying to be a truck driver. The company discovered that the applicant had never completed a truck driving course and, in the three years before submitting his application, had racked up four accidents, three moving violations and two license suspensions. In the previous 10 years, the applicant had been fired from four differed truck driving jobs, including one termination for crashing into another vehicle while the trucker was driving aggressively on an interstate highway. He also had a felony conviction in connection to his truck driving, where he tried to shatter the headlights of a woman’s car after he perceived the woman to have tailgated him.

The company declared D.L.J. a marginal candidate and hired him. The driver quickly picked up a speeding citation and again got his license suspended. Nevertheless, the company kept using the man. A year later, the driver rear-ended a man, causing him to suffer massive but non-fatal injuries.

Adding a claim for punitive damages to complete a full recovery

Based on all of that evidence, the injured man and his wife pursued the trucking company. The couple’s case made the argument that the company was directly liable for having even hired D.L.J. in the first place and was liable in having retained (continued to employ) the driver after the trucker’s continued safety problems and license suspension. Additionally, the couple was able to convince the jury that the trucking company’s misconduct was “willful and wanton,” which was very important because it permitted the jury to consider punitive damages. The jury in the case eventually decided that punitive damages was proper, assessing $35 million in damages. That was on top of the $11 million in compensatory damages the jury concluded that the company owed.

Whether you were injured by a Lyft or Uber driver or by a truck driver, there are many things that go into getting the full and fair recovery you deserve, including successfully pursuing claims against the larger entity that put that unsafe driver on the road with its logo on his/her vehicle. Talk to the hardworking Chicago injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca to how we can help you achieve that outcome. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.

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