Articles Posted in Trucking Accidents

Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion addressing whether Florida’s 1970 Pollutant Discharge Prevention and Control Act allows a plaintiff’s cause of action for personal injuries. The plaintiff worked for a Florida tow truck company and suffered injuries when he arrived at the scene of an accident between a truck transporting batteries and another vehicle. The plaintiff alleged that he suffered serious injuries after coming into contact with battery acid leaking from the truck. He filed a lawsuit against the trucking company claiming that they were strictly liable for his injuries under the 1970 and 1983 pollution acts. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him over $5million in damages; however, the district court reversed reasoning that the 1970 statute precluded his claim to personal injury damages.

Pollutants often pose significant threats of danger to Florida residents and the environment. In response to growing concerns regarding exposure to these pollutants, the legislature enacted Florida’s 1970 Pollutant Discharge Prevention and Control Act (1970 Act) and the 1983 Water Quality Assurance Act (1983 Act), which regulates the discharge and removal of certain pollutants. Legislature designed the acts to ensure that these entities are diligent in their handling of these potentially dangerous materials.

The 1970 act provides that the discharge of pollutants upon lands adjoining the coast, tidal flats, and coastal water is prohibited. The 1983 law expanded upon the 1970 act and provided injury victims with a cause of action for harms resulting from pollution of ground and surface waters. The 1970 act defines damages as the destruction to or loss of any real or personal property, except human beings. Unlike the 1970 law, the 1983 act does not provide any definition of damages within its statute. However, the 1983 act provides that injury victims may be able to recover “all damages” resulting from the discharge or other conditions of pollution. The amended 1970 act states that it applies to actions taken by both private and governmental entities when injuries result from the storage, transportation, and disposal of these products.

With the tens of thousands of motor vehicle accidents that occur in Florida each year, it is not surprising that a significant number of these accidents involve a vehicle that was loaned to the person who caused the accident. These accidents present interesting legal issues, involving when the owner of the vehicle can be held responsible for the negligent actions of the person to whom they loaned the vehicle. The answer, under Florida law, is almost always.

The dangerous-instrumentality doctrine provides that the owner of a vehicle can be held liable for any injuries caused by an accident that is caused by someone to whom they loan the vehicle. This is irrespective of any negligence on the owner’s part. Thus, as long as an accident victim can show that the owner of a vehicle provided permission to the at-fault party, the owner of the vehicle can be held liable.

However, under section 324.021(9)(b)(3) of the Florida Statutes, Florida law limits an owner’s liability under the dangerous-instrumentality doctrine to $100,000 unless there is a showing that the owner was negligent in loaning the vehicle to the at-fault driver. A recent case illustrates how Florida courts interpret and apply section 324.021(9)(b)(3) to limit an owner’s liability in these situations.

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An issue that often arises when an employee harms another during the course of his job is whether the employer can be held vicariously liable for the employee’s act. Indeed, proving vicarious liability is often necessary for assuring that one can acquire full recovery for his injuries, since many employees are “judgment proof, ” meaning financially incapable of paying the opposing party’s judgment. Given the importance of vicarious liability, many plaintiffs attempt to stretch the meaning of employer. For instance, the Fifth District Court of Appeal recently addressed the scope of who could be deemed an “employer” under a local trucking law in its decision in Peninsula Logistics, Inc. v. Erb (PDF-embedded link).

This Erb litigation was born from a collision between a vehicle owned by the plaintiffs and a semi-truck owned by O & L Transport. At the time of the accident, the driver of the truck was transporting cargo for Peninsula in a trailer owned by a different entity. Following the collision, the plaintiffs brought suit against several defendants, including Peninsula. Although the driver was not directly employed by Peninsula, the plaintiffs argued that Peninsula could nonetheless be held liable because Peninsula fell within the definition of an employer under a pertinent trucking regulation. Eventually, the case went to trial, which resulted in a favorable verdict for the plaintiffs. Peninsula brought an appeal, arguing that it could not be considered an employer as a matter of law, and therefore the trial court erred in not granting its motion for a directed verdict.

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If you have recently been involved in a Florida truck accident, you understand how difficult being involved in an accident can make your life. Even after you recover from the immediate physical injuries caused by the accident, there are often lingering physical effects of the injuries. In addition, there are the mounting medical bills.

For this reason, the State of Florida allows truck accident victims to bring a civil suit for damages to recover from the driver who caused the accident.

Typical Causes of Florida Truck Accidents

Semi-trucks are the biggest vehicles on the road. They are often weighed down with thousands of pounds of cargo and therefore can be extremely dangerous when not operated properly. While semi-truck drivers are required to have special licenses to operate the large trucks, even professional drivers make mistakes and errors in judgment.

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