How Victims Should Approach Litigation Against Two Men and A Truck
In our line of work, we've seen just about every possible fact pattern when it comes to commercial vehicle crashes. While there are a lot of different underlying situations, one thing that remains fairly consistent is the aggressive defenses that attorneys for the trucking company and their insurer mount to shield their clients from liability, even when the company's negligence seems obvious.
When a crash involves a franchise operation, like Two Men and A Truck, there's even more incentive to do so, because having to pay the damages from even one judgement against them could be enough to put a franchise out of business. Acclaimed personal injury attorney Michael Grossman explains this and other considerations involved in litigating against the company.
Questions Answered On This Page:
- What is Two Men and A Truck?
- How could the company's franchise model affect their approach to litigation?
- How could the limited requirements placed on the company's drivers impact your claim?
What is Two Men and A Truck?
Founded in the early 1980s in the Lansing, MI area, franchise moving company Two Men and A Truck (TMAT) has grown to become the 64th largest commercial transport company in the U.S., with 2017 revenues of almost $500 million and a fleet of 2,700 box trucks across its 400 independent franchisees.
Because each franchise owns and staffs its own vehicles and is evaluated independently by regulators, it's difficult to compile information on the total number of crashes those trucks have caused or the company's general safety record. This being said, there's a strong likelihood that at least some drivers for a company this large have caused collisions in which someone was injured or killed.
Unlike most trucking companies, which operate as a single corporate entity that standardizes procedures and takes on legal liability when the careless actions of its drivers are proven to have caused harm, a franchised entity like Two Men and A Truck places most of the responsibility for training and paying damages at the level of the individual franchisee. This means that there could be significant variation in the level of training and screening received by employees across franchises, and also gives each franchisee significant incentive to avoid having to pay out substantial settlements or judgments.
How Two Men and A Truck's Franchise Model Could Affect Your Case
Before discussing how Two Men and A Truck's franchise business model affects litigation, we should briefly review how franchising works. In brief, an individual puts up a set amount of money to buy a license to use the service marks, uniforms, and proprietary methods of the parent company. The independent business, or franchise, they establish is then largely under their control, from hiring to purchasing and maintaining trucks, as long as they maintain the standards set by the company.
When a trucking company's employee driver behaves negligently, and someone is injured or killed as a result, the law holds the company jointly liable with the driver, because of the substantial control they exercise over every aspect of the driver's performance. Independent contractor drivers, who essentially decide for themselves how to accomplish the work they take on, generally don't expose the company they drive for to similar liability, unless they're determined by a court to actually have been operating as employees.
Bringing this back to the franchise model, we can think of a TMAT franchise as a kind of corporate "independent contractor." As long as the central office leaves the daily operation of the business to the franchisee, the parent company is effectively insulated from liability for wrecks caused by drivers the franchisee hires.
This isn't to say that there's no substantial source of funds from which victims can obtain compensation for losses caused by one of the company's drivers, however. According to the TMAT franchise agreement, each franchisee is required to purchase a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance. In addition, other documents indicate that starting costs for operating a TMAT franchise range from between $115 and $670 thousand dollars, suggesting that franchisees may have substantial assets from which to recover.
However, the fact that each individual franchisee is responsible for paying judgments against them also means they're likely to fight as hard as they can to avoid having to pay them. If, for illustrative purposes, we suppose that a judgement in a wreck reaches the millions of dollars sometimes found in commercial vehicle claims, paying fair compensation could potentially bankrupt a typical franchise owner.
In addition, the average franchisee may not have the resources of a massive trucking company, but their parent company does, and it would certainly be in their interest to provide their franchisees with aggressive legal representation to defend against negligence claims. Without someone in your corner who knows how to cut through those attorneys' arguments with compelling evidence, even the most seemingly open-and-shut claims may wind up falling short.
Another aspect of Two Men and A Truck's business model that could be relevant for your case is the individual franchisee's control over hiring of drivers. While the company does state that each franchise is required to perform a background check for traffic violations and drug tests when taking on new hires and perform random drug tests on employees, the fact remains that the only thing standing between a driver who's unprepared to safely operate a moving truck and significant danger to the public is the franchisee's initial evaluation and whatever training they provide.
Another cause for concern regarding drivers of moving trucks is the reduced regulatory barriers to driving one compared to an 18-wheeler. For most commercial vehicle drivers, there's at least some objective standard of ability inherent in the legal requirement to obtain a commercial driver's license before being hired. By contrast, because their loads are generally under 26,000 pounds, drivers of moving trucks aren't required to obtain one.
Depending on how extensive each franchise's training actually is, a collision resulting from the carelessness of one of their employees could result in the franchise sharing liability, on the basis of what's known as negligent training. Determining whether training meets this standard are based on a jury's assessment of whether the driver received a reasonable amount of training for the responsibility of the position. This determination is largely based on the testimony of experts who can explain what the expected standards are for the field involved and how the company's training failed to meet them.
Of course, a jury can only make a determination regarding the adequacy of Two Men and A Truck's training protocols if they're provided with information about them. And since the content and quality of a franchisee's training program aren't public knowledge, the only way for you as the plaintiff to obtain that information, from a company with every incentive to withhold it, is with a legal document called a subpoena compelling them to turn it over to your attorney.
Grossman Law Offices Is Ready For The Complexities of Litigating Against Two Men And A Truck
The unique legal complications of cases involving drivers for a franchise moving company are just some of the many issues that can arise in the course of a commercial vehicle accident claim. Between trying to deal with insurance companies and the long process of recovering from your injuries, the last thing you should have to do is take on the complex, specialized work this kind of lawsuit involves on your own.
At Grossman Law Offices, we've successfully litigated hundreds of cases involving wrecks caused by all types of commercial vehicles, and we have the experience to deal with whatever complications yours may present. From negligent training to improper maintenance, if any negligent acts by Two Men and A Truck and its driver contributed to your losses, we have the resources to obtain evidence of those careless acts and the persuasive ability to present it convincingly before a jury.
If you've been injured or lost someone close to you in a crash involving a Two Men and A Truck moving truck, we encourage you to call us at 855-326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to your questions and concerns.
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