Driver And Company Liability After Florida Trucking Accident

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety[1] Administration provides that in 2012, there were 3,921 people killed and 104,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds). In the United States, 333,000 large trucks were involved in traffic crashes during 2012.   Further, in 2012, there were 104,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks, an increase of 18 percent from 88,000 in 2011. Of these people injured in 2012, 73 percent were occupants of other vehicles, 3 percent were non-occupants, and 24 percent were occupants of large trucks.

Who is Liable in a Florida Trucking Accident?

When it comes to truck accidents, many different individuals, and/or entities, may be responsible for a victim’s injuries, including:

  • – the truck’s driver
  • – the owner of the truck or trailer
  • – the person or company that leased the truck or trailer from the owner
  • – the manufacturer of the vehicle, tires, or other parts that may have contributed to the cause or severity of the accident, and
  • – the shipper or loader of the truck’s cargo (in cases involving improper loading).

The trucking, hauling, and leasing companies often argue among themselves over whose insurance will compensate the victim. For example, the truck company might claim that the accident was caused by defective brakes. In turn, the brake company might then point the finger at the leasing company, claiming that it failed to maintain the brakes in good working order.

Is the Company Liable for a Florida Trucking Accident?

Respondeat superior[2]” is a Latin phrase that means “let the superior make answer.”

Under this principle, an employer is liable for the wrongful acts committed by its employees or agents, provided the acts were unintentional and were committed within the scope of employment. Essentially, respondeat superior connects the employee’s liability to the employer, making the employer liable as if it had committed the wrongful act itself.

Truck Driver Employees and Independent Contractors

After an accident involving a commercial motor vehicle, one thing to determine is whether or not the truck driver was an employee of the trucking company or an independent contractor.  This distinction is important because a truck driving company is generally not liable for the wrongful acts committed by independent contractors.

In many instances, the distinction or whether or not a driver is an independent contractor or an employee concerns whether or not the employer has the right to control the detailed manner and means that the work must be performed. If the employer controls the result of the work, but not how the result is accomplished, then an independent contractor relationship is likely established.

Determining What Florida Acts are “Within the Scope of Employment”

It can be a very difficult task to determine what constitutes an act committed “within the scope of employment.”  Various factors can be considered including:

  • Intent: Intent of the employee.
  • Conduct:  The nature, time, and place of the employee’s conduct.
  • Work:  The type of work the employee was hired to do.
  • Act:  Incidental acts the employer should reasonably expect the employee to do.
  • Freedoms:  The amount of freedom allowed to the employee in performing his or her duties.
  • Time:  The amount of time consumed in the personal activity.

Intentional Driver Acts in Florida

There is an exception to the general rule that a company is liable for accidents caused by its employee truck drivers. Generally, an employer is not liable for the intentional torts (i.e., assault, battery, kidnapping) committed by its employee. The rationale is that the purpose of the “respondeat” principle is not being met when the employee’s acts are not related to the business enterprise.

Contact an Experienced Florida Truck Accident Attorney

At the Dolman Law Group in Florida, our team of highly skilled truck accident lawyers have successfully helped many truck accident victims obtain the recovery they deserve for their injuries and related losses. The trucking company and the other entities and individuals involved will likely mount an aggressive defense to challenge fault and/or the nature and severity of your injuries in order to limit its liability as much as possible. To protect your rights to recovery, it is critical to have an experienced truck accident attorney handling your case. Please call our office at 727-451-6900 today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756