Who is Liable if a Company Truck Driver Causes a Car Accident?
You are driving across a highway and a semi-truck transporting beverages for a large corporation seriously injures you in an accident. The company logo is visible on the truck and you are sure the truck accident took place because the driver did not pay attention, not due to any mechanical fault on the part of the truck.
The first thing that should be determined is whether the driver of the truck is an employee of the company or an independent contractor. After that is determined, the next steps may involve some type of shared liability.
If a truck accident injured you and you are seeking compensation from multiple parties, you must understand how the parties may share liability. Generally, you may hold an employer liable for your injuries to the same extent as the negligent employee, but some general exceptions apply. For example, if the truck driver violated federal trucking regulations and company policy by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then the driver’s employer may try to disclaim liability. The trucking company might, however, face liability for negligent hiring and/or training of its employee. In this case, the jury must determine who bears what level of responsibility by determining the comparative fault of the parties. Florida follows what is known as a “pure comparative fault” system. Florida law states that “contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and non-economic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.”
In other words, if a jury finds the truck driver 80 percent at fault for the truck accident, the employer was 10 percent at fault for negligent hiring, and you 10 percent at fault for speeding, you can recover 90 percent of your damages. However, Florida has abolished “joint and several” liability, an old legal principle that allowed you to choose from whom you wished to recover the full amount of damages. For example, if the jury determines that you are 10 percent at fault for your injuries, the truck driver is 80 percent at fault for behavior that fell outside the scope of employment, and the truck company is 10 percent at fault for negligent entrustment of the truck to the driver, you can only recover 10 percent of your damages from the trucking company.
Typically, truckers and trucking companies carry commercial motor vehicle insurance with high policy limits, especially if the truck hauls hazardous materials. Your Florida personal injury attorney will generally attempt to get compensation for you by filing a claim with the liable insurance company before taking the case before a Florida court. If you seek compensation, you are generally entitled to damages for:
- Medical bills
- Medical equipment
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of spousal support
- Pain and suffering