Accidents happen. And while nobody likes them, it’s almost impossible to avoid them. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk such as spec’ing vehicles with safety-related options and continuously training drivers in safe driving practices.

There are also things you can do to protect your business in the event of an accident, especially when you are performing your own maintenance and repair.

Edward Leonard, managing partner at Harrington, Foxx, Dubrow & Canter, LLC, shared some tips at the recent NationaLease Maintenance Manager’s Meeting.

He outlined the steps you can take before an accident to avoid maintenance provider liability:

  • Review commercial vehicle state and federal maintenance code sections so you are familiar with all of them
  • Be aware of all manufacturer maintenance recommendations
  • Send your technicians to maintenance education programs
  • Stay up-to-date on the leading maintenance practices and procedures
  • Ask yourself if your actions would pass the “Reasonable Maintenance Provider” legal standard
  • Consult a qualified attorney when unsure

He also outlines the steps you can take following an accident to avoid maintenance provider liability:

  • Keep additional maintenance records in a separate storage
  • Use cost/benefit analysis prior to disposing of post accident material
  • Have a post-accident procedure checklist
  • Ask yourself if your actions would pass the “Reasonable Maintenance Provider” legal standard
  • Consult a qualified attorney when unsure

Leonard explained to the group that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 49 CFR Part 300-399 are the federal regulations that affect maintenance providers, with parts 393 and 396 being the most influential. Part 393 contains a list of all equipment required for commercial vehicle operations.

The two most common theories for bringing an action against the shop performing maintenance and repair are actions for negligent repair and breach of implied warranty. Other theories include: contract or express warranty of repair and bailor/bailee relationship that affect maintenance provider’s liability.

As a maintenance provider, you have a duty to act as “a reasonable service provider would act under the circumstances,” and “to exercise ordinary care and skill” in repairing a truck or trailer.

While accidents can’t be avoided, you can take action to protect yourself from liability both before and after one occurs.