Important Information for Victims and Their Families About Litigation Against The Evans Network
If you've been injured or lost a loved one in an accident involving a commercial truck under the Evans Network banner, you may find that what at first seemed like an easy matter to resolve rapidly spirals into a complex collection of problems.
One unusual factor regarding the Evans Network's operations is the extent to which its drivers are owner-operators, rather than employees. While this distinction may seem insignificant, having a lawyer on your side who's knowledgeable about how it impacts your case against the company could make the difference between victory and defeat. Experienced truck accident attorney Michael Grossman explains why.
Questions Answered On This Page:
- What is the Evans Network?
- How many crashes have the company's vehicles been involved in?
- How could the employment status of the company's drivers impact litigation?
What is the Evans Network?
The Pennsylvania-based Evans Network of Companies, which is the 39th largest trucking company in the U.S., began its corporate life in 1939 as the Evans Delivery Company, and has since grown to incorporate a host of subsidiaries under the Evans Network umbrella, including All Points Transport and Century Express. The combined concern's approximately 5,000 trucks are operated by around 6,000 drivers, who collectively traveled roughly a billion miles and generated almost $900 million in revenue in the most recent year on record.
Given the vast distances that vehicles affiliated with the company have traveled, it probably won't come as a surprise that they've been involved in their fair share of crashes. To be specific, there have been just short of 500 in the last two years, with about half of those resulting in injuries and 17 leading to one or more deaths.
In the interest of fairness, the government agency that collects this data only determines the number of crashes and their consequences, not the party responsible for any given incident. While it's virtually certain that some number of them were caused by the negligence of a driver affiliated with Evans Network, there's undeniably also a percentage in which other drivers or external factors were the most likely cause.
One thing about the company that is significant (and somewhat unusual in the trucking industry) is that the vast majority of its truckers are retained as independent contractors, known in the industry as owner-operators, rather than employees. Because people contracted to do work for a company, but not classified as employees, are less likely to share liability with the companies they drive for, the fact that Evans Network relies heavily on drivers it treats as contractors creates a host of potential complications for victims if a driver affiliated with the company is involved in a crash.
How Does the Employment Status of Drivers for the Evans Network Affect Your Claim?
With some exceptions, if an employee of a company does something careless or foolish in the course of their work, and that negligent action leads to someone else being killed or injured, the law will hold both that worker and their employer responsible, under a doctrine known as respondeat superior, literally translated as "let the master answer." However, the two key words here are "employer" and "employee," since, under most circumstances, only workers legally determined to be employees are assumed to share liability with the companies they work for.
One obvious reason for this is that employers typically exercise a great deal of control over their employees. This includes dictating the hours employees are to work, the equipment they have to use, and the manner in which the work is conducted. When an entity has that much control over someone's actions while they're on the clock, the law holds, reasonably enough, that it should share the blame for that person's negligence.
Bringing this into the sphere of commercial trucking, drivers who are employees of a trucking company are under the control of that company in a host of ways. They drive trucks owned and maintained by that company, travel using routes and schedules the company provides for them, and are required to transport only the loads the company assigns them. Employee drivers are also restricted to only hauling freight for the company at which they're employed.
By contrast, when a worker is instead retained by a company as an independent contractor, its level of control over (and provision of resources to) that worker should be significantly less than would be the case for an employee. In commercial trucking, this would entail genuine contractor drivers either owning their own semi-truck or leasing it from one of the companies they drive for, being responsible for handling their own routing and upkeep on that truck, and being permitted to work for multiple companies at the same time.
Hiring workers as employees allows the employer to exercise tighter control, but also requires the company to pay more in taxes and benefits. By contrast, utilizing independent contractors instead reduces an employer's degree of control, but has the major benefit, at least from a trucking company's perspective, of drivers being responsible for most of the costs associated with their work, from self-employment taxes to maintenance and upkeep of their 18-wheeler.
Unfortunately, corporations and the people in charge of them don't always operate in perfect accordance with legal standards, and many companies, in the trucking industry as in others, try to have the best of both worlds: classifying drivers as independent contractors to save money, while still exercising sufficient control over those drivers to potentially render them employees in the eyes of the law.
All of this comes into play in a host of ways for victims of accidents involving companies like the Evans Network. The most obvious is the question of who is liable for a crash. Because independent contractors operate as legally distinct entities, if a contractor driver is involved in a crash and a civil suit ensues, a trucking company could attempt to avoid responsibility by claiming that, because the driver was running their own business and not under the company's control or supervision, only the driver is liable for the damages he caused.
Another aspect of commercial trucking where driver classification becomes relevant for victims after a crash is responsibility for repairs. While tractor-trailers driven by employee drivers are ultimately owned by the company they work for, which in turn is responsible for keeping them in safe working order, vehicles driven by owner-operators are, as the name implies, either purchased or leased by individual drivers, who carry the obligation of performing or arranging for any maintenance needed. If a mechanical problem with a commercial truck turns out to have been the cause of a crash, knowing who bore the legal responsibility for repairs that should have been performed to correct it beforehand could be a critical issue to resolve.
However, because misclassification of contractors as employees is extremely common in commercial trucking as a cost-saving measure, as well as a convenient way for companies to shift liability to another party after a crash, an experienced truck accident attorney won't just take the company's (or the driver's) word that they were driving as independent contractors, but will independently investigate the worker's status.
While it's easy for trucking companies to point to contracts or other evidence allegedly proving a driver is a contractor, it's ultimately the way that a worker and a trucking company actually conducted their working relationship that determines how the law will view their status, regardless of what written or oral agreements struck between them may suggest.
Demonstrating the nature of that working relationship to the judge who will ultimately rule on it requires its own contingent of evidence, from documentation of repairs indicating which party performed them, to a schedule or route map provided by the company indicating the route they expected a driver to travel.
As you might expect, parties involved in litigation don't just hand over this sort of information to an opposing party on the basis of a polite request. For that, you'll need an attorney to send them a legal document called a subpoena, which compels a company to turn over any evidence relevant to your claim or risk sanctions by the Court.
All this may sound like the kind of arcane discussion that's incredibly interesting to lawyers and puts the rest of us to sleep, but it all comes down to a simple idea: if a trucking company's decision leads to innocent people being injured or killed, they should have to answer for it. And if unscrupulous companies try to dodge accountability by hiding behind a driver's supposed status as a contractor, it's important that victims have someone on their side who can make sure they don't succeed.
Grossman Law Offices Has The Experience You Need to Take On The Evans Network
Given the many complex aspects of truck accident litigation, of which driver classification is just one small part, it's understandable that many people would feel intimidated by the prospect of pursuing accountability through the civil justice system. However, because of the large amounts at stake in crashes like these, most trucking companies won't step up and do the right thing for victims on their own, which means the credible threat of winning in court is usually the only way to obtain fair compensation for your losses.
At Grossman Law Offices, we have almost thirty years of experience successfully litigating commercial truck accident cases to resolution. Unlike other firms who may only have taken on a few cases involving tractor-trailers, we've carried hundreds through to settlement or judgment. We have all of the resources and know-how to cut through whatever excuses a trucking company's defense team can throw up, investigators to gather the evidence needed to prove your case, and attorneys who can turn that evidence into a compelling narrative before a jury.
If you've been injured or lost a loved one in an accident involving an Evans Network vehicle, give us a call today at 855-326-0000 to find out how we can help. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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