The surge in home deliveries, accelerated by the pandemic, has significantly increased delivery truck traffic on roads across the country. With major players like FedEx and UPS dominating the industry, it's natural to wonder about your options if you're involved in an accident with a delivery driver. Are you entitled to sue? The answer is yes in most cases, provided you can establish negligence. This article will provide essential insights if you're considering pursuing 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.
The legal principle of vicarious liability can come into play regarding accidents involving delivery drivers. This principle holds that an employer can be held accountable for the negligent actions of its employees. In the context of delivery companies, this means that these corporations can be legally liable for the actions of their drivers.
Employers are responsible for ensuring that their employees are properly trained, supervised, and adhere to established policies and procedures. In the case of large companies like UPS and FedEx, they have standard policies in place to meet these obligations. However, instances may arise where delivery drivers fail to follow these guidelines, cut corners, or engage in negligent behavior.
If a delivery driver's actions result in an accident or injury, you may have grounds to hold the employer liable for the driver's negligence. By establishing a connection between the driver's actions and the company's failure to fulfill its duty to properly hire, train, and supervise its staff, you can build a strong case for vicarious liability.
It's important to note that vicarious liability can significantly impact the outcome of your claim. Holding the employer accountable increases the potential for obtaining full and fair compensation for your damages and injuries. To navigate the complexities of vicarious liability and build a compelling case, it's crucial to have an experienced attorney by your side who understands the nuances of personal injury law and has a track record of success in similar cases.
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 typical accidents involving two personal vehicles, the drivers 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 get a check in a few weeks. There could be a few hiccups along the way, but attorneys are generally unnecessary unless the case is unusually complex or the injuries are significant.
But a quick insurance settlement is 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 settling claims quickly 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 be properly authenticated for presentation to the court, and your case will 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 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 protect your interests.
Even when you win your case, you may not get as much money as expected. 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 stopped suddenly, but you might have followed 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 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 you need a skilled, experienced attorney to represent you. It’s in the company’s (and insurer’s) interests 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.
Ready for Your Free Case Evaluation?
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!