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Employer Liability in Florida Trucking Accidents

Determining which parties to name as defendants in a Florida trucking accident is a crucial decision that must be made early on in the process. Of course, an obvious choice is to name the driver of the truck involved in the accident. However, Florida truck accident victims would be wise to consider whether additional parties may also be liable for their injuries.

As a general rule, employers are vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their employees so long as, at the time of the accident, the employee was acting within the scope of their employment. However, this only applies when the truck driver and the trucking company have an employee/employer relationship. If the truck driver is an independent contractor, the contracting company will likely not be held liable for the driver’s actions. Thus, the determination of whether a truck driver is an employee or a contractor commonly comes up in Florida truck accident cases.

A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts analyze claims against trucking companies.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a truck driver ran a stop sign, killing three people. The facts of the accident are less relevant to the court’s decision than the facts surrounding the relationship between the truck driver and the defendant.

Evidently, the truck driver was contracted by a transportation company. The driver leased a truck from the transportation company, and used that truck only for business purposes. The transportation company employed only one person, and all of the truck drivers who drove for the company were independent contractors. The driver responsible for the crash had been employed for about 30 days and, as it turns out, had previous traffic-related convictions on his record. It was also later discovered that he had alcohol in his system at the time of the accident.

The transportation company had an agreement with the defendant brokerage firm, whereby the brokerage firm would obtain contracts and assign them to the transportation company. As a part of this agreement, the transportation company agreed not to work with any other brokerage firms and to keep at least one driver on call at all times. Approximately 98% of the transportation company’s work came from the brokerage firm.

The plaintiffs filed a wrongful death case against the brokerage firm, arguing that it was vicariously liable for the negligence of the driver. The brokerage firm asserted that it could not be held responsible for the driver’s actions because he was merely an independent contractor, and not an employee.

The court agreed with the brokerage firm and dismissed the plaintiffs’ case. The court considered several factors, including the extent of control exercised over the truck driver by the brokerage firm, what type of relationship is customary in the industry, the skill required to perform the assigned tasks, and how the truck driver was paid. Ultimately, the court concluded that the truck driver was an independent contractor.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Trucking Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida trucking accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the South Florida law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims and their families in all types of Florida injury cases, including truck accident cases. We have decades of experience successfully serving clients across Southern Florida, and know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalves. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Establishing Liability in Florida Swimming Pool Accidents, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 25, 2019.

Can a Court Exclude Relevant Evidence from a Florida Personal Injury Trial?, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 7, 2019.

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