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Does Vicarious Liability Apply In Commercial Vehicle Accidents?


Accidents involving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) can result in long-term injury or even death, and even if the crash can be ascribed to the negligence of the CMV driver, an injured plaintiff may face an uphill battle in terms of receiving money damages for what they have experienced. That said, Florida observes a legal theory called vicarious liability, under which the employer of a negligent driver may be held liable for the torts of their employee (as long as that employee is acting within the scope of their employment).

Employers May Be Liable

Vicarious liability, also called respondeat superior, is a legal theory that dates back to English common law. It is used in CMV accident cases when it can be shown that the driver was acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the crash. Florida law establishes three criteria that one must meet in order to show that a worker was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident (and thus, that their employer can be held liable):

  • The employee’s conduct was of the kind they are paid to perform;
  • The conduct occurs “substantially within the time and space limits;” and
  • The conduct must be at least partially motivated by a desire to “serve their master.”

If a plaintiff can show that these criteria apply in their situation – and they often do, in cases involving CMV accidents – they may be able to receive money damages for their injuries.

Many Potential Defendants

Even if an injured plaintiff believes they may be able to establish that the CMV driver was acting within the scope of their employment, it is important to keep in mind that the driver and their employer may not be the only possible defendants in your case. Florida law permits multiple defendants in one personal injury lawsuit as long as their relationship to your case can be established. For example, one of the other potential defendants in a CMV accident, next to the employer and employee, may be the owner of the CMV, if the driver’s employer is a different entity.

Another common defendant is the maintainer or manufacturer of the vehicle, or of any of its parts. As opposed to driver negligence, a CMV crash may occur due to faulty maintenance or design of its parts, and if so, it is likely that negligent maintenance or design may have occurred. While not every defendant may be subject to claims of vicarious liability, it is important to evaluate such potential avenues. It is not only the driver (who may be judgment proof) who may bear liability; others involved in the process of putting them on the road may also bear that weight.

Contact A Tampa CMV Accident Attorney

If you have been involved in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle in Florida, it is important to know your rights, and also to know your options. A Tampa truck accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help answer any questions you may have about the legal process. We are here to help; call our office at (813) 831-9999 for a free consultation.



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