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Which Definition Of ‘Commercial Motor Vehicle’ Fits My Case?


Accidents happen every day on Florida roads, very often involving large vehicles like trucks and buses. If a person suffers severe injuries in a road accident, and they believe that the accident was caused by another driver’s negligence, they have the right to file suit against that person to try and recover damages. However, if the other driver is operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), there are different considerations that must be taken into account. If you are unsure as to whether a CMV was involved in your road accident, state law – and an experienced attorney – may be able to help clarify.

Depends On Facts Of Your Case

The term ‘commercial motor vehicle’ has several different definitions, each being used in different situations. This is compounded by there being a federal definition plus each state having their own. Florida’s, for example, has certain criteria that a vehicle must meet. If a vehicle (1) is not owned or operated by a governmental entity; (2) uses ‘special’ or ‘motor fuel’ on public highways; and (3) either having at least 3 axles or weighing 26,001 pounds or more, it qualifies as a CMV. This definition only applies within Florida, however; if a vehicle is involved in an accident in another state, that state’s definition may exclude the vehicle from that status.

In addition, the federal definition of CMV may be the controlling one in cases where diversity jurisdiction applies. Diversity jurisdiction is a legal concept that allows a federal court to handle a case if two factors apply: (1) if the plaintiff and defendant (or defendants) are citizens of different states; and (2) if the amount of damages is more than $75,000. The federal definition of a CMV differs in two ways from Florida’s: a vehicle must only weigh 10,001 pounds or more, and if it carries passengers, it may carry 8 or more for compensation or 15 or more for free.

Why Does It Matter?

One might wonder why it is important to specifically define a vehicle as a CMV after an accident, and the answer is because it affects how one can pursue compensation for their injuries. For example, if a truck turns out to be operated by a governmental entity, an injured person cannot simply file suit in order to recover damages – Florida observes a concept known as sovereign immunity, which does not allow citizens to sue the government except in very specific circumstances.

In addition, it is much more common for CMV accident cases to potentially involve multiple defendants, which can require a very different legal strategy than a case involving a single individual defendant. In addition to the CMV’s driver, it is plausible to think that the driver’s employer, the owner of the vehicle, the maintainer of the vehicle (if a different entity), and several other actors might play some role in the accident’s causes. Knowing what one is up against, so to speak, can make a significant difference.

Contact A Tampa Commercial Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney

If you have been in an accident with a large truck or other vehicle, it is important to enlist the right legal help so that you can be sure you seek damages from the right person and in the right manner. A Tampa commercial motor vehicle accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help you clarify your options and offer guidance for moving forward. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

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