Our truck accident lawyers recognize that commercial carriers utilize many strategies to limit their exposure to liability for personal injuries and wrongful deaths caused by the drivers they engage in transporting cargo. A common tactic involves using an “independent contractor” (IC) rather than employees to operate semi-trucks. While a trucking company cannot necessarily avoid liability by taking this approach, this strategy can reduce the risk that the commercial carrier will be subject to vicarious liability. Vicarious liability translates literally into the phrase “let the employer answer.” This concept is important because it permits an employer to be held strictly liable for the negligence of the employee (driver) even without specific evidence of negligent acts or practices committed by the trucking company. While other theories of liability might be available against a trucking company, vicarious liability often provides the easiest way to obtain a judgment against a commercial carrier, which typically will possess more extensive insurance coverage and assets to satisfy a judgment or settlement than the truck driver.
Trial Court Notes Florida Law Permits Designation of ICs as Employees
Our Florida semi-truck accident lawyers often see cases like the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal decision, Peninsula Logistics, Inc. v. Erb, which demonstrates the importance and complexity involving a court’s determination of whether a truck driver is an employee or IC. This case involved a crash between the plaintiff’s vehicle and a semi-truck owned by a company (O & L Transport) other than the one that retained the driver as an IC. Although the truck driver was not directly employed by the trucking company, the trial judge ruled that the trucking company could be vicariously liable for the driver’s negligence because it fell within the definition of an “employer” under applicable trucking regulations. At trial, the jury returned a favorable verdict for the plaintiffs. Continue reading →