Multiple Defendants In Commercial Motor Vehicle Accident Cases
Many different kinds of vehicles on Florida roads may qualify as commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), and because of the size of most of them, a CMV accident can cause serious long-term injuries. However, if you have been injured in this type of crash, it can be difficult to determine exactly against whom one is supposed to file suit. Depending on the specific facts of the case, there may be multiple possible defendants whose negligence played a role in causing you harm. In these cases, it is generally a good idea to consult an attorney.
A Broad Definition
Florida law defines a CMV as any vehicle that fits three major criteria: (1) it is not owned or operated by a governmental entity; (2) it uses ‘special’ fuel or ‘motor’ fuel on public highways; and (3) it has at least 3 axles, weighs 26,001 pounds or more, or both. As one might imagine, this relatively broad definition includes vehicles from coaches for hire to commercial tractor-trailers to advertising trucks. If a CMV is involved in a crash with another vehicle, there are several different entities that might possibly have played a role in causing your injuries.
In an accident with another private vehicle, the most that might happen is a lawsuit against the one driver you believe caused your injuries due to negligence. However, there are so many people and business entities that play a role in putting a CMV on the road that in many cases, it is appropriate to seek compensation from them all in the event of an accident. A knowledgeable attorney can help to determine which defendants might be liable in your case.
Several Potential Defendants
In addition to the driver of a CMV, there are two other parties who are the most likely to carry liability in the event of a CMV accident: the driver’s employer, and (if a separate entity) the owner of the vehicle. An employer has a responsibility to exercise due diligence in hiring and training their employees, and if it can be shown that the driver was negligent in your case, the employer may, in theory, also be held liable under a theory known as negligent hiring. Be aware that employers start with a rebuttable presumption of due diligence if they performed an “adequate” background check upon hiring.
Conversely, the vehicle’s owner (if not the same as the driver’s employer) may bear a share of the liability if the vehicle was not properly maintained or repaired. Crash reports can pinpoint the cause of an accident to a defective part or process, and if the evidence is on your side, you may be able to file suit under a theory of product liability against the vehicle owner, maintainer, or manufacturer (or all three). Keep in mind, however, that Florida has abolished joint and several liability, which means that a plaintiff may only recover damages from each defendant to the percentage they are ruled liable. In other words, if a defendant is ruled to have been 30 percent liable for the accident, a plaintiff may only recover 30 percent of their damages from that actor.
Contact A Tampa CMV Accident Attorney
After an accident with a commercial motor vehicle, your injuries are likely to be severe, and it may seem too overwhelming or intimidating to seek money damages against the person or people who caused them. A Tampa truck accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help to shoulder the legal load while you and your family can focus on getting life back to normal. Call our office today for a free consultation.