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Suing Multiple Defendants After A Commercial Motor Vehicle Accident


If you have been involved in a road accident with a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), it is likely that you have serious injuries needing significant medical care. If negligence was involved in your accident, your first idea is likely to sue the driver of the CMV to try to recover damages and medical costs. However, a driver will very often be judgment proof – in other words, they lack the assets to be able to pay a jury award even if you prevailed in your suit against them. In most cases it is far more tenable to try and file suit against the driver’s employer (a transport or trucking company, in most cases) – but there are certain facts that must be true in your case before you can do so.

Can I Sue Anyone?

Before determining whether or not you can file suit against the CMV driver’s employer, you must be certain you are able to file suit to begin with. Florida is a no-fault state for purposes of auto insurance – what this means is that instead of filing suit over every road accident case, state law requires that those whose injuries do not meet the state’s “injury threshold” instead use their personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to try and get their medical bills paid. All Florida drivers are required to carry PIP coverage worth at least $10,000, which will cover 80 percent of all “necessary and reasonable” medical expenses. If your injuries are not “significant and permanent,” you may not file suit against the person or entity who caused them.

If your injuries do meet the legal threshold under state law, you can proceed to filing suit against the defendants you believe were directly responsible for the harm you suffered. In most of these cases, it is the CMV driver’s actions that directly caused your accident, but this does not mean they are the only person you may name as a defendant. State and federal law holds that if certain criteria are present in your case, it may be possible to file suit not only against the driver, but against the company that put them on the road in the first place.

The “Scope Of Employment”

In general, a company may be sued in a personal injury lawsuit if it can be shown that the driver was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident. A person in Florida falls under that category if:

  • They are “substantially” working within the standard confines of their job, such as time and place;
  • They are at least partially motivated by their employer’s business; and
  • They are performing a type of work that they normally perform.

Long-haul truckers will often fit these criteria; the standard ‘confines’ of their job involve driving from one place to another, doing so furthers their employer’s business, and they are employed for the specific purpose of driving. If a trucker is found to be acting within the scope of their employment, their employer may be held vicariously liable for their conduct.

In some cases, it may even be possible to add other defendants to CMV accident cases – for example, if the CMV is owned by a company different from that which employs the driver, you may file against them if your case hinges on a vehicle defect or poor maintenance. Multiple defendants are not uncommon in these types of cases – but it is important, nonetheless, to be aware that each defendant is only liable for their own percentage of fault. In other words, a defendant must only pay the amount of a jury award that is proportional to their percentage of fault; they cannot be made to pay the entire amount.

Contact A Tampa CMV Accident Attorney

Being involved in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle can be a frightening time for anyone, and the medical bills incurred can be significant. You have the right to seek compensation if you believe that another person or entity played a role in your crash – and a Tampa CMV accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help you figure out the best plan of action for you and yours. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

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