Home delivery was already big business, and the recent COVID pandemic led to an astronomical rise in people having things delivered to their homes. In both big cities and small towns, the roads are filled with delivery trucks moving goods around. And two of the biggest names in the business are FedEx and UPS.
More trucks on the road also mean more risk for accidents. If you’re involved in an accident with a delivery driver, you might wonder if you can sue. The answer is generally yes, provided that you can prove negligence. Here’s what you need to know if you are considering a lawsuit.
Common Types of Delivery Driver Negligence
Delivery drivers certainly don’t set out to cause traffic accidents. But they have a lot on their minds and are often under pressure to deliver large quantities of items quickly. This can lead to such common errors as:
- Sudden stops or unexpected turns
- Failure to use the parking brake
- Not checking blind spots when backing up
- Poorly secured loads
- Faulty truck maintenance
In addition, delivery drivers may be fatigued, improperly trained, or even intoxicated. All of these errors could indicate negligence. However, outside forces such as poor road conditions or severe weather may cause accidents that are not due to the driver’s negligence, provided that he or she was driving properly for the conditions.
Under the legal theory of vicarious liability, an employer may be held liable for its employee’s negligence. This is because the employer is responsible for properly hiring, training, and supervising its staff. Big companies like UPS and FedEx have standard policies in place to meet these obligations, but when employees don’t follow the rules or cut corners, the employer may be legally liable.
Types of Damages
Every accident is unique, and there is no way to assess exactly which damages might apply without knowing the specific facts of your case. But in general, damages may be both economic (such as lost wages) and non-economic (such as pain and suffering). Commonly awarded damages in delivery truck accident cases include:
- Lost wages: Potentially including future earnings if you are disabled by the accident
- Medical bills: Potentially including anticipated future medical expenses
- Property damage: If your car, home, or other property was damaged
- Pain and suffering: This award may be significant if you were badly injured, or minimal for less serious accidents
- Punitive damages: Typically awarded only for very egregious conduct such as intoxication, or repeat offenders
To collect damages, you need to prove a few things:
- The driver had a duty of care
- The driver breached that duty
- The driver made a specific action (like backing up) or inaction (like not setting the parking brake) that directly caused the accident
- You suffered damages as a result
In many typical accidents involving two personal vehicles, the drivers simply exchange insurance information and let the insurance companies deal with it. You’ll submit some documents to your own or the other driver’s insurance adjuster, and you’ll get a check in a few weeks. There could be a few hiccups along the way, but attorneys are generally not necessary unless the case is unusually complex or the injuries are significant.
But a quick insurance settlement is highly unlikely to happen when dealing with a major company such as FedEx or UPS. These companies typically carry a lot of insurance, but they also have quite a few drivers and vehicles on the road, so quickly settling claims could become expensive. For them, it generally makes more sense to go to court, or at least to drag out the process for some time before making a settlement offer.
This means that you’ll need an attorney to represent your interests. Your documents will need to be properly authenticated for presentation to the court, and your case will need to be argued against a highly experienced team of defense lawyers who know all the ins and outs of the court process. If a settlement offer is made, it will need to be reviewed by someone who knows whether the offer is fair and inclusive of all types of damages to which you are entitled. It’s possible to represent yourself, but when the stakes are this high, it only makes sense to ensure that your interests are protected.
Even when you win your case, you may not get as much money as you were expecting. This is because Illinois has comparative negligence laws. These laws recognize that in most accidents, both parties contributed in some way. For example, the delivery driver might have come to a sudden stop, but you might have been following too closely.
It is up to the court to determine what percentage at fault each party was. Then your damage award will be reduced by the percentage that you’re determined to be at fault. So if the delivery driver was 80% at fault and you were 20% at fault, you would only receive 80% of the damages to which you would otherwise be entitled.
This is another reason that you need a skilled, experienced attorney to represent you. It’s in the company’s interest, and their insurer’s interest, to reduce your damages as much as possible by attempting to raise your at-fault percentage. But this is obviously not in your interest. Your attorney will protect your interest by ensuring that your at-fault percentage is not increased to an unfair level.
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If you’ve been in an accident with a delivery vehicle, you need a committed personal injury lawyer with experience in transportation accidents who will fight for every dollar you deserve. In the more than 60 years we’ve been in business, Cooney & Conway has settled thousands of cases for more than $1 million. Many of these were settled for amounts in excess of $10 million. Today, our Chicago-based firm has 24 highly experienced attorneys, all with different areas of specialization. If you’re ready to learn what Cooney & Conway can do for you, please fill out our free case evaluation form, and we will get back to you as quickly as possible. We look forward to earning your trust!