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Common Carrier Liability For Commercial Motor Vehicles


Florida defines a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) as any vehicle that does not belong to a governmental entity, uses ‘special’ fuel on highways, and either has 3 or more axles or weighs 26,001 pounds or more. Many passenger vehicles fall under these criteria, though not all – but in addition, they may also qualify as a common carrier. If they do, it means the vehicle’s owner and operator must abide by certain specific rules.

A Higher Duty Of Care

In Florida and many other states, every road user is required by common law to exercise reasonable care toward other road users – for example, to always check before changing lanes or turning, to refrain from speeding, and to drive defensively. Failure to uphold that duty can result in a negligence case being brought against that driver. Commercial motor vehicles must exercise the same level of care as most other drivers on the road.

A common carrier, on the other hand, requires more. It is defined in Florida law as a “person, firm, or corporation” that transports “persons or commodities” from place to place for anyone who can pay its prices. As one might imagine, this applies to most public and private transportation agencies in Florida, including bus agencies, taxis, airlines, and railroads – many of which also qualify as commercial motor vehicles. Common carriers, however, are unique in that the law requires they exercise the “highest” level of care toward their passengers.

Foreseeability Matters

It is important to understand that this high duty of care does not mean that common carriers should be held liable for any event that is not reasonably foreseeable. No one is superhuman; if a sudden freak accident leads to passenger injuries or losses, the common carrier will generally not be held liable. However, if an injured plaintiff can establish that the accident occurred as the result of foreseeable negligence, a common carrier will likely be held liable.

One detail that may be helpful in the event of a common carrier accident is the fact that in Florida, any accident that involves a CMV must have a Traffic Crash Report completed by a law enforcement officer. If the common carrier also qualifies as a CMV, that report will be admissible in any proceedings for negligence, providing a potential wealth of detail. Establishing your injuries conclusively can be the first step toward recovery of damages.

Contact A Tampa Commercial Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney

Being injured in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle can be a life changing event, but being injured in an accident while a passenger of a common carrier can raise the stakes. A Tampa commercial motor vehicle accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help you determine your best path through the legal process. Contact our office at (813) 831-9999 for a free consultation.



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