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Negligent Maintenance May be Causal in Truck Crash

Any person or business owning a vehicle is responsible to use reasonable care in ensuring the vehicle is properly maintained. An owner may be liable particularly if they had notice or were aware the vehicle had a malfunction that could affect the vehicle’s safety. An example might be failure to respond to a factory recall of the vehicle/ part, allowing tires to become “bald” and worn to an unsafe tread depth or ignoring dashboard service or warning lights for an unreasonable length of time

Section 396.3 of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations requires commercial trucks to undergo systemic inspection, repair and maintenance, which is generally understood to mean a regular or scheduled program to keep vehicles in safe operating condition. The statute doesn’t specify the exact intervals, as the question of how often maintenance is needed may be fleet specific, but the carrier has to keep proper records of those inspections and repairs. Failure to do this can result in the malfunction of a part or system that could have devastating consequences on the road.

Our auto accident attorneys are committed to carefully combing through these records to determine whether vehicles were adequately maintain and, if not, whether this was a causal factor in the crash. This should be done for collisions involving any vehicle, but especially commercial trucks.

In a recent case out of California, plaintiff sued a rental truck company, alleging he was injured as a result of a rental truck company’s negligent maintenance of a tire that subsequently blew while he was driving.

According to the opinion released by the California Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two, the facts of the case begin in the summer of 2013, when plaintiff’s employer rented a truck from defendant. Plaintiff driver worked in a warehouse and was instructed by employer to use the truck to transport numerous items of equipment across state. It was the first time plaintiff drove the truck. While on this trip, the tire blew, causing a collision that resulted in plaintiff’s injuries.

Plaintiff  sought workers’ compensation from his employer, and those benefits were paid. However, he also filed a third-party car accident lawsuit against the rental company, arguing it owed a duty of care to ensure the tires were properly maintained and failed to do so.

Defendant responded with a motion to compel arbitration, citing the rental agreement between the truck owner and plaintiff’s employer. Plaintiff pushed back, arguing he had never signed an arbitration agreement, was not a party to it and wasn’t even aware of it. The rental truck company noted that language within the contract indicated that the term “you” as used therein was spelled out to mean, “you, your respective agents, employees and authorized or unauthorized users of the (company) equipment.”

Trial court denied defense motion to compel arbitration, and the appellate court affirmed. The court noted that while plaintiff’s claim fails within the very broad scope of the arbitration at issue (he was an employee of the party that signed the contract and he was also a user of the equipment), but the court held persons are not normally bound by an agreement entered into by a corporation when they have an interest or are employees. More specifically, people can’t be bound to arbitrate a dispute unless they have actually agreed to do so, and that wasn’t the case here.

The court remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Jensen v. U-Haul Co. of California, Dec. 11, 2017, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two

More Blog Entries:

Study: 4 in 10 Drivers Admit to Phone Distractions Due to Their Job, Dec. 19, 2017, Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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