Vicarious Liability In Florida Tractor-Trailer Accidents
Tractor-trailer accidents happen in Florida with regularity, and can cause severe injuries or even death. What many drivers are unaware of, however, is that if they are injured in an accident due to the negligence of a tractor-trailer driver, they may be able to seek money damages not only from the trucker, but from their employer as well. This is a legal theory known as vicarious liability, and while it is not always applicable, it does apply in a great number of tractor-trailer accident cases.
Must Be Within The “Scope of Employment”
At common law, vicarious liability held that the master may be held liable for the torts (essentially the civil equivalent of a crime) of their employees. This is still true in general, but the tort must have been committed while within the scope of the worker’s employment. The extent of the scope of employment was clarified in case law in Florida – specifically, in order for an employee’s actions to be considered within the scope of their employment, three things must be true:
- The conduct must be of the kind that they were hired to perform;
- It must have happened within the ‘time and space’ limits of the worker’s employment; and
- It must have been motivated at least partly by a desire to serve one’s employer or their business.
So, for example, if a truck driver is employed by a trucking company to drive products from one place to another, and negligently causes an accident, there is at least a prima facie case that their actions happened within the scope of their employment.
Detour vs Frolic
Most of the time, an employee who is on the clock will be considered to be acting within the scope of their employment. However, sometimes an employee may break off from their duties to go on an errand of their own. There are two types of ‘break’ in employment law; a ‘detour’ is considered minor, but still within the scope of employment, and a ‘frolic’ is considered enough of a break where vicarious liability would not attach.
It can be difficult to determine whether a tractor-trailer driver was on a detour or a frolic when they were involved in your accident, but if they were, it will be potentially very relevant to your case. If they were, for example, en route to get gas or have their truck examined by a mechanic, it would generally be seen as a detour (and thus, still compensable); if they were en route to see their family, it would be seen as a frolic, which means the trucking company could not be held liable.
Contact A Tampa Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a tractor-trailer accident, and you believe that it was due to the negligence of the driver, know that you may be able to reach their employer, depending on the facts of your situation. A Tampa tractor-trailer accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can offer compassionate representation during a difficult time. Call our office today for a free consultation.