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Who is Liable for Damages in a Fort Lauderdale Truck Accident, the Trucker or the Employer?

— August 22, 2022

The company may be held accountable under the vicarious liability legal doctrine.

Fort Lauderdale, FL – Broward County has one of the highest numbers of traffic accidents in the Sunshine State. In 2019, for instance, there were over 41,000 crashes in the county, and 5,400 of those occurred in the Fort Lauderdale area. Many of those were minor crashes, fortunately, but the same cannot be said about truck accidents which often resulted in severe injury and death.

Minor accidents are a simple matter of going to your insurer and getting the money to fix the car, but when you’re in a truck accident you’ll probably have to file a claim against the other party’s insurance. Still, who can you sue – the trucker or his employer? Only experienced Florida truck accident lawyers can answer such a question. If the crash was caused by a driver’s error, you’ll probably have to sue the trucker, but in many cases, you may be able to pursue a claim against his employer as well. 

Main causes of truck accidents in Fort Lauderdale and liability

Police reports usually mention the first harmful event as the cause of the crash, but seasoned truck accident lawyers conduct their own investigation to determine liability. 

Reckless driving 

Things like speeding, tailgating, and shifting to the other lane without warning, constitute reckless driving and you can hold the trucker accountable for your losses.

Drunk driving

Man holding bottle of alcohol; image by Paul Einerhand, via
Man holding bottle of alcohol; image by Paul Einerhand, via

If the trucker was intoxicated, it’s primarily his fault. However, you may also have a case against their employer. Trucking companies are required to check their employees’ records and subject them to random drug and alcohol tests. If the trucker had a known drinking problem and his employers preferred to turn a blind eye, they can be accused of negligence and you can file a personal injury lawsuit against them.

Unqualified / Inexperienced drivers 

Over the past few years, the trucking industry has been complaining of a severe qualified drivers shortage. Truckers on the other hand maintain there’s no shortage. There are more than enough qualified commercial drivers, they say, only they’ve had enough of the low wages and the hard work conditions. Bottom line, trucking companies will hire almost anyone and they won’t waste much time on training. Young, inexperienced, and overconfident drivers will panic in an unexpected situation and you don’t want to be anywhere near a guy like that, especially if they’re in charge of an 80,000 lbs tractor trailer. 

Your lawyers will check if the trucker had a valid Commercial driver’s license (CDL) and what kind of training he had received. 

Drowsy driving 

Fatigue is as dangerous as alcohol as they both impair a trucker’s ability to drive safely. An exhausted driver has trouble focusing on the traffic, his reflexes are slower and he can easily lose control of the vehicle.

How do you prove a trucker was fatigued? Knowledgeable truck accident lawyers will subpoena the company for work schedules and the data on the driver’s log. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict rules on how many hours per day a trucker can drive. If he was told to forget about such basic safety regulations, the trucking company will answer for that.

Also, the company may be held accountable under the vicarious liability legal doctrine. This states that under certain circumstances the employer is financially responsible for the actions of an employee. 

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