Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Finding of Vicarious Liability in Fatal Truck Accident Case

Truck accidents are dangerous and lead to some of the most serious accidents. At Therman Law Offices, we have guided numerous truck accident victims through the legal process, including families mourning the loss of a loved one in a fatal collision. There is no amount of compensation that can truly restore your family member to you, but it does help offset the financial burden associated with a sudden and unexpected loss.

In a recent opinion, an Illinois court discussed a situation in which a truck driver caused a multi-car accident. The owner of the semi-tractor was driving down Interstate 55 with a load of produce. She suddenly noticed that the vehicles ahead of her were not moving, and she was unable to stop the truck in time. As a result, the truck ran over multiple vehicles. Two individuals died in the accident, while a third sustained serious injuries.

All three injured parties sued the many defendants involved. First, they sued a logistics company that agreed to let the driver deliver the produce as well as a federally licensed motor carrier that had authorized the driver to book and deliver loads on her own, using its carrier authority. The driver admitted that she operated the truck negligently, and so did the motor carrier. The logistics company denied liability and sought contribution from the other two defendants in the event a judgment was entered against it. At trial, the issues primarily focused on whether there was enough evidence to show that the driver was acting as an agent of the logistics company at the time of the Illinois truck accident. Under Illinois law, the doctrine of vicarious liability allows an accident victim to hold an employer liable for the tortious acts that its employees commit in the course and scope of employment.

The defendants also proposed a jury verdict form that would have required the jury to allocate fault among the three defendants. The trial court had denied the proposed use of this, finding that the statute that allows juries to sometimes allocate fault in this manner did not apply here. Such jury forms are only appropriate when the liability of the defendants is capable of being apportioned legally. Since the doctrine of vicarious liability was involved, the jury could not apportion individual acts of liability among the defendants.

The jury concluded that the driver was an agent of the logistics company and that it controlled the driver’s work performance regarding how the loads were delivered and the manner of payment. As a result, the jury awarded damages to the plaintiffs in excess of $23 million. The logistics company appealed, and the appellate court upheld the jury’s decision and the verdict form that was provided to the jury.

If you or someone you love was injured in a truck accident, you likely have questions about how you should proceed and whether you have a right to seek compensation from the truck driver or trucking company. There are complex rules and regulations that apply to the trucking industry. The seasoned and dedicated Chicago truck accident lawyers at Therman Law Offices are standing by to assist you with exploring your right to compensation and seeking the justice that your family deserves. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 773-545-8849 or contact us online.

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