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Backing Into Trucking Accidents: Bob-tail Insurance and Wildcats

I. Insurance Fight

After there is a big rig or tractor/trailer accident, it is not always necessary to end up in court.  In the following case, the person hurt was not at odds with the leasing company (Mr. Wells here), or the trucker (Mr. Caps), that owned or operated the misdriven big rig. In the following case, for example, a trucking accident lawyer recognized that the injured couple (the Reeveses) had overlapping interests with the transport company that was operating a Kenworth truck. It was the insurance company that became the major roadblock.

The problem was that the people who were actually at fault were completely judgment proof. This lack of insurance or being judgement proof is an all too common recipe for poor outcomes, potentially leaving someone who gets hurt, out in the cold. As an experienced trucking accident lawyer can also tell you, it often requires special legal knowledge of insurance coverage and coverage lapses. Because insurance companies may not volunteer this information about their varied types of liability, it is essential that anyone hurt by a trucking accident, especially where it appears the driver may be inadequately insured, immediately gets advice from a qualified trucking accident lawyer.

II.       9 AM Cancellation: 5 PM Collision

For more than a year, Wells had run a Ken worth truck for B&P motor lines. B&P paid Wells only for individual “runs in”, and Wells would then pay Caps for the specific work. Expecting to have some type of insurance coverage for whoever was in charge or making the decisions, Wells agreed to pay B&P $18.00 a month for what is known as bobtail insurance. Whenever Wells sent an invoice for his or Caps work, B&P would deduct the money from its monthly settlement. As a trucking accident lawyer later noted, B&P had also added Wells by name to the fleet insurance policy. After a year of this successful arrangement, Wells and B&P both mutually decided to cancel their working relationship. Unfortunately, and somewhat ambiguously, that very same day, Caps (the driver for Wells) was working on the Kenworth. The arrangement was that Caps was going to “purchase” the Kenworth from Wells.

So it was, that on that same May 27--the day the lease agreement and insurance was cancelled--that Caps was involved with a traffic accident that harmed the Reeves, a married couple. The trucking accident lawyer who represented the Reeves got an award against Caps and Wells. Unfortunately, attempting to collect this award revealed that Caps and Wells were both broke. In legal parlance, this meant that they were judgment proof. The Reeves’ trucking accident lawyer then pursued B&P as well as B&P's insurance carrier.

III.  Getting Value From Good Judgment

The trial court disagreed with the trucking accident lawyer: the court ruled there was no active insurance policy in place to apply to Caps driving at 5:00 o'clock. Although the trial court did agree with the trucking accident lawyer that the bobtail insurance was valid, the trial judge did decide Caps was not acting within what is called the scope of employment which would have made B&P liable.

The Reeves’ trucking accident lawyer appealed and won a reversal of this decision.

It is an important question, because it’s not always clear when a trucker is working for a hauler or producer: especially if a truck accident involves someone who may be freelancing. The trucker may believe that they are legitimately still on the clock, or doing work for someone. In many more cases, a trucking accident lawyer would be able to show that there was also a particularly good possibility that the driver had reason to believe that insurance was still in place.

IV. Safety, Not Speculation: Requiring Insurance on the Road

Since this case very much rested on the fact of whether or not Caps was acting “within the scope of employment,” it's worth spending time on this specific issue. A trucking accident lawyer is in a good position to assure discovery of documents that explain the nature of this relationship. In this case, it was even more complicated, because of the three different parties involved in a very established but ending relationship. Certainly, the fact that the trucking accident lawyer could establish a sort of cooperative arrangement between the three parties was helpful in winning the case. Because of this special relationship between the parties, the trucking accident lawyer was able to establish that Wells had an agent at the time, and that was Caps. An experienced trucking accident lawyer is also aware of these relationships being quite common in particular trucking companies. This fact was not lost on the judges at the appeals court level. The appeals court judges referenced Interstate Commerce Commission regulations, which were pointed out by the trucking accident lawyer. These specific regulations require that licensees such as B&P act to make “certain that their lessors have adequate insurance to operate in Interstate Commerce.”


Fortunately, in the following case, someone did get the assistance they needed from a qualified trucking accident lawyer and obtained appropriate relief from the insurance company. But it came only after this extended court litigation to force the insurance company to own up.

There's one other important point in a case like this. Truckers who may be left to fend for themselves often need the help of a qualified trucking accident lawyer, too. Because more and more trucking companies hire freelancers for short term and part time trucking halls, this often has the effect of leaving insurance as a clouded issue. Of course, not all transport companies that hire freelance truckers are unscrupulous. At the same time, it often takes an experienced trucking accident lawyer to make sure that any compromise that may be achieved is fair to all sides, regardless of their financial status. Potential unfairness in insurance payments can often be remedied if an injured trucker also seeks the help of an experienced trucking accident lawyer as soon as possible.

If you, a family member or a loved one have been hurt in a  big truck or tractor/trailer incident—or have questions about a prior or recent accident—or have questions about insurance claims or need help related to a motor vehicle insurance policy, or involving related claims or your legal rights or hearings, please contact us. You may also be a professional truck driver of family member of a trucker involved in an accident.  You are able to speak with a Charlotte trucking accident lawyer who can best answer your questions.  There is never a fee for this initial consultation.

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