Employer Liability In Truck Accidents
Truck drivers have to work long hours to make deliveries and stay on schedule. If the trucking company places pressure on drivers to perform, it can lead to truck drivers driving long distances on limited sleep or on drugs aimed at keeping them awake in order to operate their trucks. A truck driver who drives under these conditions is more likely to cause an accident that results in serious injury or death to other drivers on the road.
What Can The Truck Company Pay?
Generally under Florida law, through the legal theory of respondeat superior, a truck company that employs a negligent truck driver who causes an accident can be held liable for the compensatory damages of the victim of the accident. Compensatory damages may be both economic and non-economic. Examples of economic damages include loss of income, past and future medical expenses and any property damage resulting from the accident. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish and other non-financial losses resulting from the accident.
In some cases, truck accidents may be caused by defects in the trucks, or lack of proper maintenance where an employer has a duty to properly maintain the truck. These factors contributing to an accident or the example of the owner who requires his employees to work long unsafe hours may lead a court to find that an employer should be liable for punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages that are awarded to a plaintiff beyond the compensatory damages, and are supposed to punish the party at fault while also discouraging others from engaging in similar bad behavior. Florida courts have held that in order for an employer to be ordered to pay punitive damages, the employer must also have directly engaged in some wrongdoing.
Florida law also limits the amount of punitive damages that a court may award. For example, punitive damages in most cases cannot go beyond three times the compensatory damages or $500,000. However, in cases where a court determines that the employer continued to push for unsafe driving for financial gain, knowing the risks that it would cause to other drivers, a court is allowed to award more in punitive damages.
One argument that the truck companies may make to avoid liability may be that although the truck driver caused the accident, he was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and therefore, the truck company as the employer should not be held liable. The success or failure of this defense lies in the facts of each particular case. However, an experienced truck accident attorney knows how to conduct the appropriate investigation into the driver and their employment duties in order to counter this defense.
Contact a Clearwater Truck Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one were involved in an accident with a truck, you should consult an experienced truck accident attorney to learn what options you may have against the truck company. Contact the experienced Clearwater truck accident attorneys at Roman & Roman, P.A. for a consultation today.