When motor vehicle accidents and other harmful mishaps occur due to dangerous cargo loading, unloading, and transportation practices, victims can hold shipping companies involved in those activities liable for the resulting damages.
To prove a shipping company’s liability, a truck accident lawyer must gather evidence, analyze the law, and construct a persuasive case for compensation on behalf of the injured victims.
In this article, we will explore how and when shipping companies can face liability for the harm that an accident causes and the role lawyers play in securing monetary damages for victims.
The Broad Reach of Shipping Companies
Shipping companies must safely move goods from one place to another, making them a backbone of global commerce. Their services include arranging transportation and loading, transporting, tracking, and unloading cargo. They may use commercial trucks, trains, airplanes, and ships to move goods, and they may operate large warehouses and depots that serve as transshipment points.
Because shipping companies have such broad exposure to commerce, their operations may play a role in a wide variety of harmful accidents and mishaps.
Common types of accidents for which a shipping company could be liable include:
- Motor vehicle accidents involving loaded commercial trucks.
- Hazardous spills or explosions due to improper loading or transport.
- Cargo-related slips and falls.
- Dangerous incidents that occur during the loading or unloading of vehicles.
- Train derailments or crashes at railroad crossings.
- Air disasters.
The shipping industry reaches into every corner of everyday commercial and consumer life in the United States. For that reason, a shipping company could bear liability for just about any harmful accident or incident connected, even indirectly, to transporting goods.
To find out if you can hold a shipping company liable for an incident that harmed you or a loved one, contact a skilled truck accident attorney with experience pursuing claims against shipping companies and their employees.
The Shipper Owed a Duty of Care to the Victim
A duty of care is a legal obligation to exercise the level of skill and caution necessary to avoid harming others. To prove a shipping company’s liability for acting negligently, a lawyer must establish that the company owed the injured victim a duty of care in how it conducted its business and operations.
Shipping companies owe a duty of care to the public to take reasonable steps to prevent harmful accidents. That duty may require a shipping company to implement safety measures, inspect and maintain its equipment, train and supervise its workers, and ensure compliance with industry regulations.
As a society, we expect (and in some cases, legally require) shippers to take these actions to ensure their businesses don’t become a dangerous and costly threat to public safety.
The Shipper Breached the Duty of Care It Owed the Victim
A breach of duty occurs when an individual or entity fails to uphold a legal duty of care. To prove a shipping company’s negligence, a lawyer must demonstrate that the shipper breached a duty of care it owed to the injured victim.
For example, a shipping company may breach a duty of care by failing to follow good safety practices, neglecting to train or supervise its personnel, or violating industry regulations. Any decision, action, or failure to act that falls short of the expected level of reasonable diligence and competence necessary to protect the public from harm can constitute a breach of a shipping company’s duty of care.
The Breach Caused the Accident That Harmed the Victim
Causation refers to the link between a party’s breach of a duty of care and a harmful event. To prove a shipping company’s liability for negligence, a lawyer must establish that its breach of duty contributed to the cause of an accident that harmed the victim.
Lawyers can prove causation in various ways. They may produce evidence showing that the accident happened immediately after actions that breached a duty of care, or they may demonstrate that a decision a shipping company made set in motion a series of events that the company knew or should have known would result in the accident. The key is to establish a clear, solid link between a breach and the harmful event that followed.
The Victim Suffered Damages
Lawyers use the term damages to refer to two distinct but related concepts: an injury for which there is a legal remedy and the compensation for such an injury. To prove a shipping company’s liability for negligence, a lawyer must show that the victim suffered damages (or an injury for which damages are payable) in the accident that the shipper’s breach of duty caused.
The damages a victim of a shipping accident might suffer can include medical expenses, lost income and job benefits, pain and suffering, and diminished quality of life. Proving the damages a shipping company should pay involves demonstrating the injury’s financial effect on the victim, as well as any other non-financial life disruptions the victim has suffered.
The amount of damages a victim suffers and that a shipping company might have to pay depends on various factors, including the severity of the victim’s injuries, the quality of the evidence supporting the negligence claim, the skill and experience of the victim’s lawyer, and the shipping company’s financial resources.
A Shipping Company’s Negligence Per Se
Companies in the shipping industry must comply with regulations that government agencies promulgate to ensure safe business operations. A company that fails to comply with those rules risks facing liability under a legal principle called negligence per se, which deems a regulatory violation definitive evidence of negligence if it leads to the type of accident the regulation exists to prevent.
For example, you can hold a shipping company negligent per se if its violation of hazardous materials shipping regulations plays a role in causing a toxic spill.
In shipping company liability cases, negligence per se arising out of regulatory violations can be a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled attorney.
A lawyer who understands the shipping industry and the rules that govern it can identify violations tied to an accident and use them as an efficient and effective means of proving a shipping company’s liability for damages.
A Shipping Company’s Vicarious Liability
Vicarious liability is a legal concept that holds one party responsible for another party’s harmful actions. For example, the law often holds employers vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees when the employees’ conduct occurs within the course and scope of their employment.
In shipping company liability cases, you must establish vicarious liability to obtain compensation for an accident victim’s injuries. For example, if an employee of a shipping company causes an accident by speeding in a delivery vehicle or carelessly handling hazardous materials, an injured accident victim can hold the shipping company liable even though the company itself did nothing wrong in training or supervising the employee.
An experienced personal injury attorney can use the doctrine of vicarious liability to increase a victim’s chances of receiving meaningful compensation for accident-related losses. Shipping companies often have significant financial resources to pay a personal injury claim.
A Shipping Company Is Only Liable Until the Statute of Limitations Expires
A statute of limitations is a law setting a time limit for taking legal action, such as filing a personal injury claim against a shipping company. The time limit that a statute of limitations sets varies by jurisdiction, the type of claim at issue, and numerous other factors. A party loses the right to take legal action after the statute of limitations for that action expires.
Time limits for filing personal injury claims against shipping companies vary from just a few months to several years. The safest way to ensure you meet the statute of limitations for a claim against a shipper is to speak with an experienced attorney immediately.
Protect Your Rights to Hold a Shipping Company Liable
Your rights are at risk after you suffer injuries in an accident or incident that a shipping company’s wrongful actions cause. The company may take steps to attempt to avoid its financial responsibility for your losses. Following the tips below can protect your rights and position you to achieve a favorable outcome in your case.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Seek medical attention immediately after getting into an accident of any kind, even if you think you avoided injury or escaped with nothing more than bumps and bruises. Some catastrophic injuries don’t necessarily show immediate symptoms, and the stress and anxiety of being in an accident can mask pain. Let an experienced medical professional check you over before any injuries you’ve suffered worsen.
Getting care protects your health and safeguards your legal rights against a shipping company that is liable for your losses. The medical records of your treatments can serve as powerful evidence in a claim for damages and demonstrate that you took care of yourself, which is a key fact in protecting the value of your claim.
Hire a Shipping Accident Lawyer Immediately
It’s never too early to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to handle your claim against a shipping company. The sooner you have an attorney on board, the more an attorney can do to build your case for compensation and the lower your risk will be of missing a statute of limitations deadline or making mistakes that could damage your claim.
Hiring a shipping accident lawyer is affordable. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations for you to learn about your rights and options. They also represent their clients on a contingent fee basis, earning payment only if they win your case.
Do Not Settle Without Consulting an Attorney
An insurance adjuster or shipping company lawyer may contact you with an offer to settle your claim quickly, even before you’ve filed it. Do not accept the offer or sign any agreement without first consulting a personal injury attorney. Quick settlement offers rarely pay you what you deserve for your losses, and if you accept them, you risk giving away your right to fair compensation. Ask a lawyer to evaluate the settlement offer, advise you on whether it’s reasonable, and, if not, negotiate or litigate the claim on your behalf.
Contact a Shipping Accident Attorney Today
Determining the liability of a shipping company in personal injury cases involves a thorough understanding of various legal concepts and factors. To handle the complexities of shipping company liability claims effectively, accident victims should consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
A knowledgeable lawyer can collect evidence, identify responsible parties, and navigate the legal system to secure the maximum compensation possible. By hiring a skilled attorney, injured individuals can increase their chances of obtaining the money they need to pay their bills and rebuild their lives.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a shipping accident, contact an experienced attorney today for a free consultation.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.