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Is Third-Party Liability Possible In Tractor-Trailer Accident Cases?


Accidents involving tractor-trailers have the potential to cause severe injuries, or even fatalities. If a tractor-trailer driver can be proven negligent, both they and their employer may be held liable for any harm they cause to other road users. However, in some cases, it may be possible to establish liability on the part of a third-party – that is, neither the injured plaintiff nor the (allegedly) negligent defendant. It is very rare for liability to rest entirely with a third party – but as second or third defendants, it is much more likely.

Four Criteria To Establish Negligence

A standard negligence case, as many tractor-trailer accident cases are classified, usually involves an injured plaintiff and a defendant, who may or may not be found negligent in causing the plaintiff’s injuries. In Florida, four criteria must be met in order to hold a defendant liable. They are:

  • The existence of a duty to exercise reasonable care toward people of the plaintiff’s class – for example, every road user in Florida has a duty of care toward every other road user, including pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and passengers;
  • A breach of that duty of care;
  • Tangible damages sustained as a result of the breach of duty; and
  • A showing that the harm suffered was a direct result of that breach of duty caused by the defendant, with no other intervening cause.

So, for example, a tractor-trailer driver must exercise a reasonable level of care while on the road. If they are negligent – for example, driving while fatigued – and get into an accident with another vehicle, that constitutes a breach of the duty of care, with no intervening cause that also caused the harm to another person.

Many Entities Can Be Liable

If you have been injured in a tractor-trailer accident, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the driver was the only one responsible for the harm you have suffered. In reality, it is not at all uncommon for a third party to play a role in this type of accident, particularly those close to the tractor-trailer and its driver. For example, a common third-party defendant is a loading company, which may have improperly loaded cargo or failed to secure it. Another is the manufacturer of the tractor-trailer or its constituent parts – if a part is defective and caused the vehicle to malfunction, liability may fall on their shoulders.

Keep in mind that while a tractor-trailer company (one that employs the driver and/or owns the vehicle) may be a defendant, they are not necessarily considered a ‘third-party’ defendant because they are often a main defendant in this kind of case. Florida recognizes a legal theory called vicarious liability, under which an employer can be held liable for the torts of their employees if the employee was acting within the scope of their employment – that is, if they were engaged in the business they were employed to perform. In these cases, the driver and their employer may be considered co-defendants.

Call A Tampa Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorney

If you have been in an accident involving a tractor-trailer, you may have sustained severe injuries, and you have the right to seek compensation from those who caused them – all of those who could have played a role. A Tampa tractor-trailer accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help you determine how best to proceed in the legal process. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

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