J.B Hunt Transport Services is the fifth largest logistics company in the U.S, boasting nearly 19,000 trucks in its fleet.
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one to one of those trucks, you’re probably in a difficult, precarious, and intimidating situation, and not just because of the obvious trauma of the accident itself. Without meaning to, you’ve become an adversary to a rich and powerful corporation. Maybe you’ve started receiving calls from J.B Hunt claims adjusters, asking you for statements or offering you money, and you’re not sure how you’re supposed to respond. Conversely, J.B Hunt representatives might have made legal threats or counter-accusations, or simply refused to respond to your communications at all.
For you, your accident is a horrific and (hopefully) one-time event that will, for better or worse, affect the rest of your life. For J.B Hunt Transport, like any other large trucking company, it’s just an expected part of doing business, one more expense to keep as low as possible.
That power disparity can be disheartening, but the good news is that, with an experienced truck accident lawyer on your side, even the biggest company with the best-funded defense team isn’t immune to accountability. Their size can even work in your favor, because it means they can afford to fully fund your recovery, and the jury will know it.
Below, we’ll go into deeper detail on J.B Hunt tractor-trailer accidents, what causes them, under what circumstances you can sue J.B Hunt, and what to expect along the way. If at any time you’d like to speak directly with a J.B Hunt truck accident lawyer in Georgia about your case, feel free to reach out by phone or through our online chat function for a free consultation.
The Essentials of Trucking Safety Are Simple, but It’s Cheaper to Let Crashes Happen
Trucking is fairly complex work, full of life-threatening hazards and technical tasks that have to be done just right to prevent disaster. It takes training, experience, and attention to learn every process and safety procedure, from maintenance to loading to maneuvering these enormous vehicles under all possible conditions.
However, at the end of the day, the most important part of ensuring safety in trucking is the same as it is in any other dangerous and technical profession: not cutting corners, not working while compromised, and taking the time to get the job done right.
Current trucking industry culture encourages drivers to do the exact opposite. Pay is often mileage-based and impossible to live on without working unhealthy and exhausting schedules. Drivers are pressured, often socially as well as financially, to drive faster and farther at all costs, which inevitably raises the number of on-the-job mistakes. This kind of work environment also increases turnover, leading to lower average experience levels among drivers, and can contribute to problematic coping strategies, such as drug use.
There’s arguably no company more aware of this than J.B Hunt Transport. In the ’90s, the company experimentally raised its driver pay to reduce turnover and improve safety, and it worked. Unfortunately, having competent, adequately rested drivers who don’t cause needless accidents apparently didn’t translate to higher profits. The company rescinded the pay increase soon afterward.
As of April, 2021, J.B Hunt Transport trucks and drivers had received 2,923 citations for unsafe driving, 1,011 for violating federal or state regulations on how much driving truckers can do in a certain period of time, 5,907 for vehicle maintenance issues, 122 for driver fitness issues (such as not meeting minimum health or training requirements), and 12 for drug or alcohol violations over the previous two years. Yet the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which tracks this data, still ranks J.B Hunt’s performance as “satisfactory.” That’s because constant safety violations are such a painfully average part of trucking industry standard practices — standard practices that J.B Hunt Transport arguably played a key role in preserving when it re-lowered its drivers’ pay.
This is why holding negligent trucking companies accountable in civil court is so important. Corporate entities will almost always choose profits over preserving human life or well-being, and the cost of potential lawsuits is one of the only financial incentives they have to pay attention to safety at all.
J.B Hunt Transport Has Fought to Avoid Basic Protections for Drivers and the Public
In 2018, J.B Hunt Transport was the defendant in a class action lawsuit brought by California drivers, over the company’s alleged failure to provide meal and rest breaks or meet minimum wage requirements for all time worked. The company settled the suit for $15 million and then unsuccessfully tried to have itself exempted from California labor law.
The next year, another California-based class action lawsuit alleged that J.B Hunt had misclassified its drivers as independent contractors, even though it maintained an employer’s level of control over their daily activities. This is an issue that has come up around several trucking companies, particularly those operating in California, over the past few years. Among other claims in this particular suit, drivers said that J.B Hunt had refused to reimburse them for necessary business expenses, once again denied them meal and rest breaks, and failed to meet minimum wage for their hours worked. J.B Hunt ultimately settled the suit for $6.5 million.
Trucking companies generally argue against following labor laws by claiming that driving is a different employment model that offers different advantages. However, things like being able to take thirty minutes to eat lunch, or make at least the equivalent of minimum wage for one’s time, aren’t too much to ask in any work-for-pay arrangement, let alone one where lives are at stake.
From these repeated lawsuits, J.B Hunt should arguably know that their drivers are not getting the support they need to take care of themselves and stay sharp behind the wheel, but instead of addressing the problem, they’re defending the status quo that creates it.
In Most Cases, J.B Hunt Transport Is Responsible for the Negligence of Its Drivers
While a trucking company’s safety policies and treatment of drivers have a huge influence on the frequency of accidents, it’s not necessary to prove that the company broke any regulations, or acted inappropriately at all, in order to hold them liable for a driver’s mistake.
In general, when an employee is acting on behalf of an employer, the employer is considered responsible for those actions, even if they don’t turn out to be exactly what the employer asked for or wanted. When an employee does a good job, it’s the employer who profits. The other side of that arrangement is that, when an employee messes up, the employer is responsible for the costs, even if the employer didn’t do anything wrong. This concept absolutely applies to traffic accidents caused by truck driver error.
Assuming that a J.B Hunt Transport truck was clearly at fault in your accident, there are only a couple of situations where J.B Hunt might not be liable:
- If the driver was fully off-duty and using the truck for personal reasons
- If the driver was an independent contractor who was not receiving an employer’s level of direction from J.B Hunt Transport
Even these exceptions have exceptions, however. J.B Hunt might share liability for an off-duty employee’s accident if the employee was not qualified to drive a tractor-trailer in the first place, and the company entrusted them with one anyway.
Independent contractors’ situations are always worth examining to find out whether they are truly independent, but even if they are, J.B Hunt might still be liable for a contractor’s accident if an employee’s actions also contributed to it. For example, an employee might have loaded the trailer the contractor was hauling, and failed to secure hazardous materials properly.
In any accident where J.B Hunt Transport owns either the tractor or trailer, the company might also be liable, regardless of who was driving, if poor maintenance was a contributing factor.
Commercial Truck Accidents Cause Massive Damage, and Settlements Can Be Quite High
Because of the sheer size of commercial trucks, a trucker’s error can have particularly catastrophic consequences, even when compared with other drivers on the road. Trucking companies’ claims adjusters are used to working with very high dollar amounts, but for most people, the true cost of a commercial trucking accident, in terms of property loss, lifetime medical expenses, and lost quality of life, can be difficult to comprehend.
Trucking companies often take advantage of this fact by offering quick payouts that sound large but really only cover a fraction of the damage. Courts, on the other hand, are usually quite receptive to well-presented evidence of trucking company negligence and will award survivors much fairer sums.
J.B Hunt accident cases involving serious injuries and death, of which there have sadly been plenty, have had accordingly high settlement values in the past. To name a few:
- In 2012, one survivor was awarded $20 million after a J.B Hunt driver ran a red light, struck the side of her vehicle, and propelled her across an intersection and into a pole.
- In 2015, another was awarded $32.5 million after she collided with an already-wrecked J.B Hunt truck that, in violation of safety protocols, did not have its emergency lights on.
- • In 2017, another was awarded $15.5 million after a private contractor driving for J.B. Hunt swerved onto the shoulder, striking a pair of stopped vehicles. The contractor fled the scene and was later found to have been intoxicated.
Another suit is currently ongoing, concerning a pileup in Texas that killed six people in February of 2021. J.B Hunt is one of five transportation companies involved in the crash. The survivors are reportedly only seeking $1 million, but the damages could be worth a great deal more.
The Stoddard Firm Has J.B Hunt Truck Accident Lawyers Who Can Help
If you were struck by a J.B Hunt truck or otherwise involved in an accident with an at-fault J.B Hunt driver, or if you’ve lost a loved one to such an accident, the law is on your side. However, in order to collect the compensation you deserve, it’s crucial that you start working with a qualified commercial truck crash lawyer as early as possible.
The process for truck accident cases is different and more involved than for smaller car wrecks, so not every accident lawyer has the necessary expertise. For example, one of the most important steps is acquiring and preserving the evidence from the truck’s onboard monitoring equipment, which smaller vehicles don’t have.
Another major part of pursuing an accident lawsuit against J.B Hunt, or any trucking company, is establishing the full extent and cost of the damage. Proving that the J.B Hunt driver was at fault doesn’t help if all it gets you is the cost of your car and an emergency room visit, when what you need is a lifetime of physical therapy and a way to pay your bills during major adjustments in your career and personal life.
The truck accident lawyers at The Stoddard Firm are knowledgeable in all aspects of commercial truck accident cases, and we excel at effectively conveying pain, loss, life changes, and the reality of severe injuries to judges and juries. We can help you hold J.B Hunt accountable for your accident and get you the resources you need to focus on your recovery in peace and comfort.
To speak directly with a J.B Hunt truck accident lawyer in Georgia, reach out through our chat function or give us a call at 678-RESULT for a free consultation.