Truck accidents: What is the Graves Amendment

Semi Truck / Tractor Trailer at loading DockThe trucking industry is a complex one. A personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas knows that in many cases tractor trailers are rented from independent truck companies. In other cases, truckers rent semis from their own employer. When people are injured through the negligent actions of a trucker, it can be difficult to identify all responsible parties. The existence of the Graves Amendment can further complicate the situation.

Legal protection for commercial rental companies

According to an article published in Trucking Info, the Graves Amendment frees a commercial rental company from vicarious liability when it leases the vehicle to a person or company who operates the vehicle negligently. The purpose of this federal statute is to prevent third party lawsuits in cases where the owner or affiliate owner has not been found responsible for negligence or criminal wrongdoing.

Trucking companies are trying to claim that the Graves Amendment gives them immunity from personal injury claims when they rent their trucks to another company or to truckers. However, a recent court case may set limitations on the legal protection offered by the amendment.

Interpreting the Amendment

After a fatal tractor trailer crash in 2009 killed a woman, her husband filed a lawsuit against the truck driver, his employer, the company that rented the semi and the parent company of both the employer and the truck rental company. The parent company filed a motion claiming that it could not be held liable as it was protected under the Graves Amendment.

A federal judge ruled that the amendment did not apply in this case as the truck rental company and the employer of the trucker were both subsidiaries of the parent company. This made the parent company an affiliate of the negligent parties under the language of the amendment. If the ruling holds true, it could give victims of truck accidents and a personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas the ability to pursue financial compensation from these types of companies.

Negligence and liability

In Nevada, large truck crashes were responsible for 7 percent of the state’s motor vehicle accident fatalities in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly 80 percent of these fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicles.

In a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, of the top 10 factors that contribute to truck crashes, seven of them are driver-related, such as inattention or distraction. Factors involving the truck’s load and its maintenance are contributors, as well. More than one factor can be at play in an accident, and a driver error may be compounded by a maintenance issue that is the responsibility of the owning company.

Anyone who has suffered from the devastating effects of a truck crash may be able to collect compensation from more than one party. A personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas who has experience with the trucking industry may be able to provide legal advice on how to proceed with a court case.