Commercial Motor Vehicle Accidents & Vicarious Liability
Florida’s definition of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is fairly specific, having to do with the overall weight of a vehicle and the fuel it uses. However, the most important characteristic of a CMV is that it is owned by a corporation, and not a governmental entity. If a vehicle is owned by a corporation, this means that in the event of an accident, an injured person may be able to seek damages not only from the vehicle’s driver, but also from the driver’s employer. This concept is known as vicarious liability.
What Is Vicarious Liability?
Vicarious liability, also referred to as respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) is a common-law concept, meaning that it is not contained in a statute, but rather was developed by case law. It holds that if an employee commits a tort – basically the equivalent of a crime in civil law – while they are within the scope of their employment, both they and the employer may be held liable, depending on the circumstances.
This doctrine has persisted for two major reasons. First, employees are very often judgment-proof, meaning that if they lose a lawsuit and are ordered to pay compensation, they may personally lack the funds or assets to do so, while their employers do not. Second, in some cases of vicarious liability, it is the employer who has been indirectly negligent by hiring the driver in the first place. Either way, an injured person has multiple options if they are involved in a CMV-related accident.
Acts “Within The Scope Of Employment”
If you were injured in an accident, and you believe that you may be able to hold an employer vicariously liable, you must be able to show that the employee was acting within the scope of their employment. Three criteria must be met to establish that fact: (1) the conduct must have been of the kind the employee was hired to perform; (2) must have happened within the “time and space” limits of their employment; and (3) must have been at least partially motivated by intent to serve their employer’s interest.
With rare exceptions, this rules out criminal conduct, but if an employee causes injury to another person, their employer can be held liable if the facts merit doing so. This can make all the difference to an injured plaintiff; for example, a truck driver may not have assets enough to pay off a civil judgment, but the trucking company is almost certainly able to pay out in most circumstances. It has long since been state public policy to ensure that injured plaintiffs are paid off even if it means that an innocent employer must pay for the sins of its employee.
Contact A Tampa CMV Accident Attorney
Establishing vicarious liability for a company can be a difficult task, but an experienced attorney on your side can improve your odds of success. A Tampa truck accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help guide you through the legal process toward the compensation you need. Call our office today for a free consultation.