When Are Florida Trucking Companies Liable?
Florida trucking companies can be liable for accidents their drivers cause! After a trucking accident in which a victim sustains bodily injury, consulting with a trucking accident lawyer is a priority. A Personal Injury lawyer with years of trucking accident experience can determine if injuries are severe enough to recover damages. It’s important the lawyer has previous trucking accident experience. A lawyer lacking trucking accident experience can send the client out the door with insufficient compensation. While some lawyers claim they can handle a case as large as a trucking accident, they never see them to verdict.
Furthermore, when it comes to Personal Injury cases, clients frequently hear terms they’re unfamiliar with. The best thing to do when unsure what something means in regard to a Personal Injury case, is ask! A lawyer with experience won’t have a problem explaining case details to the client.
This writeup will cover all of the following points found in a Florida trucking accident case:
- What is Respondeat Superior?
- How do accident lawyers apply “Respondeat Superior” in trucking accident cases?
- How does the “scope of employment” determine compensation?
- What points of Florida trucking accident law differ from other states?
- Why is employee liability and independent contractors’ liability different?
- When is emphasis on the trucking carrier?
- What is intent in trucking accident cases?
What is Respondeat Superior?
Without a law degree, it’s impossible to understand the very basis of trucking accident law: Respondeat Superior.
We’ll first explain the term to assist our readers in getting a full understanding of what this article intends to explore. The translation of Respondeat Superior is the English translation of the Latin phrase ‘make the master answer’. This legal principle in both English and Latin can be defined as follows:
“[…]A legal doctrine, most commonly used in tort, that holds an employer or principal legally responsible for the wrongful acts of an employee or agent, if such acts occur within the scope of the employment or agency.”
That’s to say, “Respondeat Superior” is being able to determine under the law, whether the carrier that employed the trucking operator is responsible for the truck accident caused by that driver. A Personal Injury case must determine whether this was the case before the claim can proceed to the next step in the legal process.
How do accident lawyers apply “Respondeat Superior” in trucking accident cases?
Personal Injury lawyers using Respondeat Superior in a Florida trucking accident case apply this legal principle. Their burden of proof will rest upon the carrier’s liability for a negligent act by any of its employees. In this case, it’s a trucking operator violating any FMCSA or FMCSR regulations. Outside of experience in trucking accidents, this legal principle can be confusing. While many lawyers will claim to be able to handle this type of case, they have never seen one to verdict.
The principle simply means the following:
An employee must act responsibly to avoid liability for an accident. Should a truck driver choose to act in a reckless or negligent manner (violating FMCSA or FMCSR regulations, disobeying the DOT’s Hours of Service regulations, etc.) they’re subjecting their employer to liability.
How does the “scope of employment” determine compensation?
“[…]Actions of an employee which further the business of the employer and are not personal business, which becomes the test as to whether an employer is liable for damages due to such actions under the doctrine of Respondeat Superior.”
Next, let’s look at how this applies to Personal Injury practice. In order to successfully obtain compensation for the pain and suffering of a client, the lawyer must determine what constitutes an act. What lead up to and caused the accident, specifically? These acts must fall within the “scope of employment”.
This happens during Discovery, and can be a lengthy process if the lawyer is unfamiliar with trucking accidents. Younger lawyers sometimes find themselves with this problem. Beware of lawyers who advertise their ability to handle a trucking related case, but have no visible results of seeing any of those cases to verdict.
What points of Florida trucking accident differ from other states?
While the Department of Transportation (DOT) is an office with federal regulation, there are state laws governing trucking companies and their drivers in every state. This is because a truck drivers’ main duty is transporting goods across state lines. So, what differs from state to state in regard to truck accident law?
- Employee intent (did the employee act in a reasonable manner? Did they violate federal law?)
- Hours of Service and properly maintained logbooks
- Time and place of negligent conduct
- Job the employee was hired to perform
- Incidents which the employer can reasonably expect of the employee
- How much freedom is enacted upon the employee when performing his or her assigned job
An example truck accident scenario:
A truck driver may rear end someone while out on an assigned task, such as a delivery or pickup. In this example, the trucking company is liable for the pain and suffering of the other driver because the employee was acting within the scope of employment.
This is just one example, and there are many things that factor into a case in which liability is the cause of the accident. During consultation and beyond, a Board Certified Personal Injury lawyer will look at the details of the case and determine who needs to be pursued, specifically, in order to recover damages on behalf of the client.
Why is employee liability and independent contractors’ liability different?
The first thing a lawyer must determine is whether a truck driver is an employee of a company. This determination falls under federal regulations such as FMCSA. If the truck driver is an independent contractor, laws are different. The Department of Transportation does govern independent contractors, however the regulations are not the same. The difference lies in who determines how the work is carried out. Hours of Service violations happen when an employer deliberately alters logbooks or suggests a truck driver skip mandatory breaks. These actions are illegal. Thus, there is potential for further damages.
It’s important to note that a Florida trucking company is not usually the one liable for acts of an independent contractor. Independent contractors have more autonomy than a driver working for a corporation.
When is emphasis on the trucking company?
The question is “does a company have the right to determine how employees perform work?” For example, the company may have control over the end result, but not the work to achieve the end result is carried out. This delineation establishes an independent contractor relationship between the company and the contractor hauling cargo.
However, a driver may work for a carrier that upholds FMCSA standards. Therefore, Hours of Service requires corresponding logbooks. Work can be: specific steps to securing cargo, maintaining logbooks, training other employees. These actions would make a truck driver an employee.
What is “intent” in Florida trucking liability cases?
There is an exception to the general practice that a carrier upholds liability. This occurs in situations where accidents are the fault of an employee under FMCSA. Under normal circumstances, a trucking company will not be liable for “intentional tort”. Intentional tort can mean: kidnapping, assault, and other violent acts an employee may commit.
How does this factor in? The principle of “Respondeat Superior” is not met when the acts of an employee are not in relation to the trucking company.
Let’s look at one more example:
If a truck driver making a delivery sustains serious injury as a result of an act of Negligent Security, the truck driver may be able to recover to compensation. That is, if they’re performing their job in a reasonable manner. A delivery to a previously scheduled, employer sanctioned location is reasonable in this instance.
However, this is just an example. It’s important that those who sustain any type of injury in an accident seek a lawyer with Board Certification. Lawyers with Board Certification are the only ones who can advise clients on the specifics of a case.