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Commercial Motor Vehicle Accidents & Negligence Per Se


Commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and their drivers are subject to the same laws as most of the road users in Florida, and will face the same liability as would any other road user if they cause harm to someone else. One legal theory that is less commonly used nowadays, but can still help to establish liability, is a doctrine known as negligence per se. While this is not always helpful to a person injured in a CMV accident, it can be a way in which you can establish that the CMV driver or their employer acted negligently.

A Form Of Strict Liability

Negligence per se is not the same as standard negligence – it is essentially the idea that conduct that violates a statute is by definition negligent. This doctrine is used in instances where violating a statute is seen as a particularly dangerous or reckless behavior, particularly if people are injured or killed. For example, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) will be generally seen as negligence per se because by engaging in that behavior, the person has broken the state’s drunk driving law. Essentially, it is a form of strict liability, which assigns liability without regard to intent.

Most road accident cases are brought under the umbrella of personal injury, which is based in tort law (essentially, the civil version of a crime, which carries money damages as a penalty instead of required jail time). Negligence per se is a theory of civil law that generally only applies in tort law, simply because many torts are seen as so reckless or dangerous that a person’s intent to commit them is irrelevant. To continue the example, driving drunk is dangerous not only to the driver, but to society at large. The danger is only amplified if the person under the influence is operating a large tractor-trailer or other CMV.

CDL Violations Apply

When it comes to commercial motor vehicle drivers, another commonly seen way that negligence per se can be used as a tool is if the driver lacks a commercial driver’s license (CDL). A commercial driver can have their CDL suspended for up to 1 year, or revoked if they have too many infractions – but it is sadly not uncommon for unscrupulous companies to keep employing a driver with no license, or for a driver to simply conceal that fact from their employer.

Because a person is legally required to possess a valid CDL while operating a commercial motor vehicle, the absence of a license can establish negligence per se – after all, someone who lacks the appropriate credentials operating a CMV is, by definition, doing so in a dangerous manner. Note that this may only mark the driver as negligent; if your situation is such where the owner of the CMV is also a defendant, you may have to establish their negligence the old fashioned way.

Contact A Tampa CMV Accident Attorney

If you have been involved in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle, a Tampa CMV accident attorney may be able to help you decide where to go from here. The Rinaldo Law Group has handled many of these cases – let us handle yours today. Contact our office for a free consultation.

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