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By: Jason G. Schutte

Trucking, transportation and logistics are becoming an increasingly complex industry. A product of this complexity is the increasing presence of freight brokers. These entities act as middlemen between shippers (persons or companies seeking to have freight moved) and carriers (trucking companies).

Freight brokers facilitate communication between the shipping and trucking companies to arrange the transportation of freight from the loading dock to the destination. Brokers generally do not take possession of the freight; rather, they ensure that the freight transfer goes smoothly between carriers and shippers, and that freight arrives safely, on time. 

Personal injury cases involving any trucking company or related entity are complex. Moreover, unique questions of fact arise when a motor vehicle collision occurs involving a carrier/trucking company transporting a load arranged by a freight broker. It is imperative that freight brokers and parties involved in a car accident hire attorneys experienced in transportation law.

The attorneys at Koepke, Hiltabrand & Schutte are very knowledgeable and experienced in trucking and transportation law, including the liability exposures of freight brokers under Illinois law. Please contact us to discuss your case.

The trucking industry is a vital part of our nation’s economy. Also, it is a complex industry involving numerous different entities including shippers of freight, freight brokers, logistics companies, trucking lines/companies and owner operators. The nature and extent of the business relationships between these entities is a common legal question that regularly arises in trucking lawsuits, especially those involving personal injury.

The most common question presented by these cases is whether a particular person/entity, commonly the owner or driver of the truck, is an agent of a larger trucking company or freight broker. Plaintiffs often want to establish that the person or entity in control of the truck at the time of an accident is the agent or employee of a larger trucking company, freight broker or logistics company.

Plaintiffs want to establish this because, by doing so, they can argue that the larger company is liable for the actions of the person/entity actually in control of the truck at the time of the accident. Generally, it is in the best interest of the plaintiff to establish liability against a company that may have “deeper pockets” than the actual driver of a truck or a smaller trucking company. Under Illinois law, this is established by pursuing a Respondeat Superior cause of action.

Under Respondeat Superior a principal (trucking company, logistics company, etc) may be liable for the tortious (wrongful) actions of its agent. It is the equivalent of a master/servant relationship. If plaintiff can prove that an alleged principal/agency relationship existed at the time of the accident, then the principal will be liable to the same extent as the agent for the agent’s actions. Alternatively, if an alleged principal (trucking company, logistics company, etc) can establish that the owner or driver of the truck was an independent contractor, then the alleged principal may be able to escape any liability for the negligent actions of the driver.

The unique relationships created between the various entities create numerous questions of fact that must be investigated to defend against a Respondeat Superior claim and to establish if an independent contractor relationship exists. These considerations include the right of the principal to control the agent, method of payment, provision of necessary tools or materials and deduction of income tax, amongst others.

It is imperative for parties or potential parties to a trucking lawsuit have experienced counsel to investigate these claims. The attorneys at Koepke, Hiltabrand and Schutte are experienced in investigation and litigation of trucking and liability claims, along with the unique questions of law they present. Please contact us to discuss your case or any concerns you may have related to transportation liability.

 

By Jason G. Schutte

Under Illinois law, interstate carriers operating under an Interstate Commerce Commission Number (Motor Carrier Number) and displaying a company name on a truck are vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their drivers. A purpose of the Interstate Commerce Act is to protect persons injured by semi-trucks operated on public roadways by eliminating agency and scope of employment defenses in determining liability in personal injury suits caused by trucking accidents. This cause of action implements this goal.

This is done by placing full vicarious liability on the carrier for the negligent operations of its vehicles. Not all situations will qualify as a logo liability case. A plaintiff must prove that the operator of the truck was operating the truck through a lease agreement, with the carrier’s name and licensing number displayed on the side of the truck, hence “logo” liability. If the driver is not leasing the vehicle or is not operating under the carrier’s operating authority, then this cause of action should not apply.

Careful investigation must be taken into the contractual agreements entered into between the driver of the truck and the carrier/broker to determine if a valid logo liability claim might exist. If a plaintiff cannot establish logo liability, then the carrier/broker can assert defenses that the driver was an independent contractor, insulating the carrier/broker from liability in trucking claims.

Contact our attorneys with any questions you may have regarding trucking liability claims.

By Jason G. Schutte

 

The trucking industry is a highly regulated and demanding business area. Freight brokers, transportation/trucking companies and owner operators are especially at risk of becoming involved in personal injury or casualty lawsuits due to the demands of their industry. Trucking litigation presents unique legal questions including agency, joint venture, logo liability, equipment maintenance and compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.

It is imperative that trucking companies facing liability for personal injury and casualty claims retain counsel with experience in trucking litigation to address the unique issues of these cases. The attorneys at Koepke, Hiltabrand & Schutte have extensive knowledge and experience litigating cases that involve the unique questions of law facing commercial transportation and trucking companies within the State of Illinois.

Please contact us to discuss your case.

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