Trucking accidents can have a devastating impact on the victim’s life. This is, in part, due to the fact that passenger cars are no match for an oncoming semi. While such accidents often result in greater injuries than a typical car wreck, they also often involve higher levels of complexity. One of the reasons that trucking accident cases are more complex is the fact that they often involve multiple defendants. This article will explain why such cases involve numerous parties and the importance of identifying each of them. If you have been injured, then it is important that you contact an attorney immediately to assist you.
Trucking Accidents Often Involve Multiple Defendants and Numerous Theories of Liability
Car accident cases are typically a straightforward matter in which the owner of one car is liable for the damages suffered by the driver of another car. Trucking accidents are different in that there are layers of liability that extend to multiple parties. This flows from the fact that business owners are liable for the acts of their employees and are potentially liable for the acts of those whom they contract with. This means that if the owner of the truck employs a driver to operate it then the owner will also be negligent for any acts committed by the employee. If the owner employs a third-party management company, who in turn hires the driver, then the management company can be held liable for the driver’s negligence. The owner may also face liability for hiring a negligent management company. These are just a few examples of how several entities may be liable for the negligence of a truck driver.
Truck accident cases can be further complicated by the fact that different theories of liability may exist against the various defendants. As explained above, the employer of the driver can be held liable for the driver’s negligence. The employer may also be held liable if it is shown that they were negligent in their hiring of the driver or if they failed to adequately supervise them. Examples of negligent hiring can include not performing drug tests, not checking driving histories, etc. Examples of negligent supervision can include not monitoring how often the driver is taking breaks, a failure to perform ongoing drug testing, etc. Additionally, the owner and/or any hired management companies may face additional liability for failing to properly maintain the truck’s equipment, any failures to inspect safety features, and more. These are just a few examples of how different causes of action can exist against different defendants.
Steps to Identifying the Defendants in a Truck Accident Case
There are numerous methods and tools available for identifying the possible defendants in a truck accident case. The first involves your attorney determining who owns the vehicle and whether it is a different person or entity from the driver. This can be accomplished by researching Motor Vehicle and Secretary of State Records. If the vehicle is owned by a party other than the driver, then the owner’s insurance carrier will often provide necessary information to identify any third-party management companies that were utilized. If this information is not acquired through insurance or dealing with the truck’s owner, then it will be possible to obtain it later through the discovery process. These are just some of the steps that an experienced attorney will take in order to identify all necessary defendants.
The Consequences of Not Identifying All Defendants in a Truck Accident Case
Failing to identify all of the necessary defendants can result in you not receiving the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled. This can stem from not being able to bring all the possible causes of action as well as the fact that Florida has abolished joint and several liability.
Failing to Name a Defendant Can Result in a Victim Not Being Able to Bring All Relevant Causes of Action
As explained above, the different defendants in a truck accident case may face various causes of action that do not apply to all of the parties. As an example, the owner may face liability for negligent hiring and supervision but this is not an action that can be brought against the driver. Also, if the owner or management company is not named then it may not be possible to hold the driver liable for equipment malfunctions.
Consider the following example. Joe is employed to be the driver of the truck. His employer informs him that all of the truck’s safety equipment has been inspected and maintained. Before getting on the road, Joe inspects the truck’s brake lights to ensure they are working, which they are. Unbeknownst to Joe, the owner has not changed the tail light signals for some time even though they told Joe they had done so. While on the road, the tail lights go out and this causes an accident. The victim only sues Joe and not the owner. Under this scenario, the jury may find that the driver had done nothing wrong and is not liable. Since the party at fault, the owner, is not named in the case it is possible that the victim will recover nothing.
Failing to Name a Defendant Can Result in Damages Not Being Fully Recoverable
Florida no longer recognizes the concept of joint and several liability. This concept allowed a defendant to recover all of their damages from any of the defendants regardless of that defendant’s degree of fault. So, for example, if Defendant “A” was found to be ninety percent responsible for the wreck and “B” was found to be ten percent responsible, the victim could recover all of their damages from “A” if “A” had more financial resources and better insurance coverage. Florida law, however, now only requires a defendant to pay an amount equal to their share of the harm. This means that if a defendant is not named then the victim may not be able to recover all of their damages.
Contact a Florida Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you have been involved in a truck accident, you need a lawyer with the experience necessary to identify and name all of the possible defendants.