Liability Can Be Elusive in a Florida Trucking Accident

Imagine you are injured in Florida trucking accident with a tractor-trailer carrying a heavy load.  Miraculously, you are not killed when the driver of the 18-wheeler plows into your car while changing lanes on I-95.  Like they often are, the driver appears tired and not altogether with it when a police officer responds to the scene.  He tells the officer he did not even see you and that he forgot to check his blind spot before merging into your lane.  The police officer cites the truck driver as being at fault in the accident, and your car is declared a total loss and must be towed.  Before you leave, you wisely get the driver’s own insurance information as well as that of the trucking company.  Meanwhile, a family member comes to pick you up but you stop at the emergency room on the way home to ensure that you have not suffered any serious injuries or any injuries you’re not aware of.

When you call to report a claim to the trucking company’s insurer, the claims adjuster “regrets to inform you” that because the driver was an independent contractor, it is refusing to accept any liability for the driver’s actions.  It is insisting that, even though he was hauling a load for them, the driver was an independent contractor and neither the trucking company nor its insurer are responsible for your damages and injuries suffered as a result of this incident.  Nevertheless, just because the trucking company or its insurer is claiming that it is not responsible for the trucker’s actions does not mean this is the end of the story.  Instead, a judge will be the one to assess whether the driver was acting as an employee or an independent contractor of the trucking company at the time he was involved in the accident.

Trucking Companies and the Games They Play to Avoid Liability

Many companies of all kinds and their insurers play games like the one in this scenario to avoid all different types of liabilities.  When it comes to determining liability for an incident, insurers often play a form of musical chairs in which no one wants to take responsibility or pay a claim.  The way that plays out in this scenario is by the trucking company claiming that the driver was an independent contractor and that, even though he was hauling a trailer with the trucking company’s logo on the side, the trucking company is not responsible for the driver’s negligence in merging into your car and causing you both property damage and personal injuries.

Florida Law Regarding Trucking Company Liability for Their Drivers’ Actions

Typically, the trucking company may be held liable for trucking accidents if it can be demonstrated that the driver was functioning within the scope of his or her employment at the time of the event regardless of whether the trucking company wants to call the driver an independent contractor or an employee.  Under Florida law, a judge will look at a variety of factors to determine whether the driver was functioning as an employee or an independent contractor at the time of the Florida trucking accident.  These include things such as the extent and amount of control the trucking company had over the truck driver, how the truck driver was paid, the length of the relationship between the truck driver and the trucking company, who owned the truck that hit you, and a variety of other factors.

Ultimately, the judge may conclude that, regardless of what the trucking company calls the driver, he was functioning as an employee at the time of an accident and the trucking company can be held liable for that accident.  If the judge concludes the other way and that driver was functioning as an independent contractor at the time of the accident, then your recourse would be against the driver

Contact Schwed, Adams & McGinley

At Schwed, Adams & McGinley, our experienced personal injury attorneys have represented clients who have been seriously injured in a variety of different scenarios, including trucking accidents, for decades.  The experienced personal injury attorneys of our firm have over 150 years of combined legal experience representing accident victims throughout Florida.   Our experienced Florida personal injury attorneys know how to get around any games that a trucking company may play to avoid liability in an accident caused by one of their drivers in order to obtain the best results for our clients.  If you or one of your loved ones has been involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer in Florida, contact our firm today at contact@schwedlawfirm.com or by telephone at (877) 694-6079 for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.