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What Role Do Unqualified Drivers Play in Truck Accidents?

Unqualified Truckers Cause Accidents on the Road - an Attorney's Perspective

In our 25 years of working for truck accident victims, we've seen a sharp rise in accidents involving unqualified drivers. Below, we'll explain the different ways a commercial truck driver can be unqualified, and, how to prove a driver's lack of qualification after a semi-truck crash. Doing so will allow you to hold the trucking company accountable for their negligence in hiring them.

In this article, Texas truck accident attorney Michael Grossman discusses how unqualified drivers factor into truck accident cases.

Questions answered on this page:

  • How do unqualified truckers get on the road in the first place?
  • Is the trucking company responsible for having an unqualified driver?
  • What makes a trucker unqualified?
  • What does a driver's qualifications have to do with my accident case?
  • Do I need a lawyer to prove that a trucker wasn't qualified?

What Makes a Driver "Unqualified"?

We use the term "unqualified" quite generally in our everyday language, as in, "X politician isn't qualified to be president" or, "you're not qualified to state an opinion on that subject." In truck accident law, however, this term has a very specific legal meaning: an unqualified driver is one without a commercial drivers license ("CDL") or one who's had their license suspended.

Becoming a truck driver requires candidates to undergo specific training to obtain their CDL. Among the lessons drivers must learn in such training are:

  • How to pre-trip check their trucks for potential problems, like faulty brakes
  • How to safely enter and exit roadways
  • The proper use and alignment of the truck's mirrors to avoid blind spots
  • Proper lane change procedure
  • Hours of service limits
  • Regulations on substance use and abuse
  • Emergency protocols
  • Limitations on cell phone use while driving

While some of the maneuvers listed might seem intuitive to passenger car drivers, they're entirely different matters when driving an 80,000-pound vehicle that can top speeds of 80 miles-per-hour. Requiring that drivers get and maintain their CDL, in other words, isn't some formality or moneymaking scam by regulators and truck driving schools. It's deadly serious business, because 18-wheeler drivers who don't know what they're doing will almost inevitably cause wrecks.

Further, it's not easy to lose your CDL once you've gotten it. That's bad news, because it means that a driver may still be able to maintain their license despite a series of negligent acts. In our experience, previously-certified drivers only lose their CDLs for the most flagrant and repeated abuses, like being caught driving over the hours-of-service requirements, substance abuse, doctoring their driver's logs, or causing major accidents.

Sometimes, even actually losing one's CDL outright isn't enough for a company to take away a driver's keys. They may be allowed to stay behind the wheel for any number of reasons---he's related to the boss, he just got his CDL taken away but still needs the money, the driver was "only going across town," and so on. Whatever the reason may be, allowing a driver whose CDL has been revoked to keep driving is textbook negligence, and a company who does so deserves to be held accountable if their unlicensed employee causes a wreck.

What an Unqualified Driver Means for Your 18-wheeler Accident Case

From a legal perspective, if you've been hit by an 18-wheeler driven by an unqualified driver, you've got additional challenges and opportunities facing you:

  • The bad news. You can bet all the money in the world that the driver who hit you doesn't have anything approaching the personal assets you need. Suing him might get you a nice paper judgment, but you won't actually be able to collect much money from him. To make matters worse, most insurance policies carried by individual commerical drivers are voided when the driver doesn't have---or loses---his CDL. Insurance companies understandably don't want to insure drivers who can't make the barest qualifications. So, if the driver doesn't have his CDL, there's a good chance you won't get anything out of him.
  • The good news. Trucking companies know the dangers of unqualified drivers better than anyone. Further, there are strict federal and state regulations against hiring and retaining drivers without valid CDLs. Because of this, you may have an excellent chance to file a negligent hiring and negligent retention claim against the trucking company that employed the driver.

In cases where trucking companies are proven to have utilized an unqualified driver who went on to cause a collision, the company will almost certainly be held liable. Their insurance will kick in, and you stand a good chance at a full recovery. However, you can't just walk into a courtroom, claim the trucker was unqualified and show the jury a pictured of an expired license. There's a specific prove-up process to properly admit evidence, plus there are rules for filing documents in court that very few laypeople are familiar with. Any lawyer worth their salt will know how to get the right evidence in front of the jury and make sure that all the right documents are in order, so the trucking company doesn't get off on a technicality.

It's time to fight back for you, your family, and the general public

Every serious truck accident is a tragedy, but it's frankly enraging to find out that the driver who caused it had absolutely no business being on the road at all. Not only have you and your loved ones been hurt, but that guy never should have been driving an 18-wheeler in the first place. Take a stand and say "No more!" Then call us at 855-326-0000, because we make it our business to keep unqualified truckers off our roads.

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