If I Get in an Accident With a Truck Driver, Can I Sue the Employer in Florida?
Yes, you can, in most cases. Individual drivers are legally and morally responsible for the crashes they cause. Transportation companies, moving companies, and other truck owners are often financially responsible for damages, because of the respondeat superior rule. More on this rule below.
The number of truck accidents has increased significantly since 2015, mostly because of the ongoing truck driver shortage. Fewer drivers mean that the trucks on the road must carry more cargo than ever before. These massive vehicles are difficult to control and these days many drivers lack practical experience.
That said, trucking companies are formidable legal opponents. Their experienced lawyers fought the ELD (Electronic Logging Device) mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. Because these lawyers are so tenacious, you need an equally tenacious truck accident lawyer on your side, in order to level the playing field.
Truck Accident Injuries
A fully-loaded large truck carries hundreds of gallons of highly flammable diesel fuel and weighs over 80,000 pounds. When these large vehicles cause wrecks, the victims usually sustain serious injuries, such as:
- Broken Bones: Frequently, victims are pinned underneath wrecked trucks until emergency responders can free them. The excessive weight often crushes their bones. As a result, these victims need extensive physical therapy. Even then, there is usually some permanent loss of function in the knees, hips, and other joints.
- Severe Burns: Diesel and gasoline burn at different temperatures. Therefore, truck crash victims often sustain third or fourth-degree burns. These injuries almost always require painful and expensive skin grafts.
- Head Injuries: Contrary to popular myth, the brain doesn’t snugly fit inside the skull, like a hand in a glove. Instead, the skull is basically a water tank. It suspends the brain in cerebrospinal fluid. The massive force in a truck crash causes the brain to violently slam against the inside of the skull.
Largely because of the potential catastrophic nature of these injuries, truck drivers usually have a higher duty of care than noncommercial motorists.
Following distance is a good example of the difference. Most noncommercial drivers must adhere to the two-second rule. Truckers must normally maintain a following distance of at least four seconds.
Evidence in Truck Crash Claims
Victims badly need compensation for these injuries so they can pay medical bills and carry on with their lives. To obtain this compensation, victim/plaintiffs must prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence.
The aforementioned Electronic Logging Device is often a critical element in drowsy driver claims. Such claims are rather common. Driving for eighteen hours without sleep is like driving with a .05 BAC (blood alcohol content) level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial operators in Florida.
Both Florida and the federal government have strict HOS (Hours of Service) rules which are designed to reduce the number of fatigued truckers. These rules include weekly driving limits and daily break requirements.
That said–along with information collected from the driver’s log–some combination of the police accident report, witness statements, and medical bills are often enough to convince jurors to award maximum compensation.
Respondeat Superior Liability
Ship captains are ultimately responsible for the crew’s conduct. Similarly, truck or cargo owners are ultimately responsible for driver negligence, at least in most cases. The respondeat superior doctrine applies depending on the:
- Scope of Employment: Once upon a time, this phrase only applied to situations like a regular delivery driver making regular delivery runs. Today, Florida law applies this phrase to any conduct which benefits the employer in any way. For example, injuries at company softball games are usually within the scope of employment. If workers are happier and healthier, the employer benefits.
- Employer: Many truckers are owner-operators or independent contractors for tax purposes. But since the transportation company exerts some control over their conduct, these individuals are usually employees for negligence purposes.
Vicarious liability theories like respondeat superior are especially important in catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims. Frequently, individual drivers do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in these wrecks.
This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Truck crash victims may be entitled to compensation from multiple parties. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Pompano Beach, contact Goldman & Daszkal, P.A. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.