Who Was Responsible for Your Truck Accident?
The commercial trucking industry is an important part of both Florida’s and the nation’s economy. There are over 15.5 million trucks on the roads in the U.S., with 2 million of those being tractor trailers, and truckers logged nearly 433 billion miles in one year.1 With so many trucks on the road, accidents involving big rigs are inevitable.
Accidents involving trucks are different from those only involving motor vehicles and can have dramatic effects on the lives of those involved. The reality is that trucking accidents are usually more severe in nature and often result in catastrophic injuries and loss of life. Determining who is liable for your truck accident is important not just for your peace of mind, but also for your potential claim against the at-fault driver.
Factors in Determining Liability
When determining the cause of a trucking accident, there are many factors that will be considered by the police and/or a court. In many situations, it will be clear from the nature of the accident that the truck driver was at-fault. In other scenarios where liability is disputed, it is important to consider a number of other factors, all of which may point the finger towards the truck driver.
Time spent driving – Federal and state regulations2 limit the amount of time that a truck driver can drive without having to stop and take a break. This is known as “hours of service.” If a driver has been driving too long, it stands to reason that he is tired and is more likely to become distracted and have his reaction times suffer. In addition, if he is in violation of a law, negligence per se may be an option to impose liability on the driver. Negligence per se is a doctrine that imposes a civil negligence finding for breaking a safety law.
Commercial driving license – Driving large trucks requires the drivers to have a commercial driving license.3 If an unlicensed driver is driving the truck, this may constitute negligence per se, as well.
Weight issues – Trucks often have maximum weights that they are allowed to transport. Though there are numerous reasons for this, one of the reasons is a heavier vehicle is more difficult to stop and without proper stopping power, the truck becomes that much more dangerous. Determining if the truck was over its allowed weight can also help demonstrate liability on the truck driver’s part.
Who Can I Sue?
If the driver has been found to have caused the accident, you may be able to sue the company that employed the driver in addition to the driver alone. In Florida, a trucking company can be held vicariously liable for the actions of its drivers. Vicarious liability is the idea that a third party can be held liable for the independent actions of another. Basically, this means the company can be held responsible for the accidents its drivers are involved in. As it relates to employer-employee vicarious liability, the doctrine known as “respondeat superior” allows a plaintiff to sue a defendant employer for the actions of the employee if the following criteria are met:
- The injury occurred while the defendant was working for the employer
- The injury was caused by something the defendant would ordinarily do for the employer
- The employer benefited in some way from the defendant’s actions, even if it was small or indirect.
In a commercial trucking example, the truck driver hits another vehicle while driving for the owner. The driver causes the injury while driving, which is the literal description of his job. The owner makes money off of the driver transporting goods. Thus, the owner company can be held vicariously liable for the driver’s actions.
This is desirable for numerous reasons, but the main reason is that the trucking company likely has “deeper pockets,” meaning that it has a much greater ability to pay a bigger judgment than the individual driver would be able to.
Contact a Florida Truck Accident Attorney Today for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident involving a truck, contact a Florida truck accident lawyer right away. Florida law allows victims to recover compensation for injuries and other losses that they may experience as a result of a collision. A lawyer familiar with litigating Florida accident cases can often help victims recover substantially more compensation than they would be able to retain on their own, so it is highly advisable for anyone injured in an auto accident to discuss their options with an experienced lawyer.
To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers at Dolman Law Group, call our office today at 727-451-6900 or send us an email through our online contact form.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765