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Rear-End Hillsborough County Crash Kills Two


A third person was seriously injured when a passenger car slammed into a Freightliner tractor-trailer.

The accident occurred in the left lane of Sheldon Road just north of Mohr Road. 30-year-old Tywaun Burgess, of Orlando, was idling in his truck in the left lane when a 2012 Kia Rio approached from the rear and collided with the truck. The driver, 38-year-old Samuel Thomas of Lakeland, died at a local hospital; 70-year-old Juanita Paulino, of Tampa also died at the scene. First responders rushed Christino Paulino to a nearby hospital.

Quirch Foods Co. owned Mr. Burgess’ Freightliner.

Liability in Tampa Rear-End Car Wrecks

Some people erroneously assume that if Driver A rear-ends Driver B that Driver A is always legally responsible for damages. That’s certainly not always the case. For example, the “swoop and squat” is one of the most common car accident insurance fraud schemes in Florida and all other states. Driver A pulls out in front of Driver B and either slows or stops, enticing Driver B into a rear-end collision. Driver B is obviously not responsible in that situation, and there’s a fairly good chance that Driver A will face insurance fraud charges if the scheme is uncovered.

Legally, these crashes involve the last clear chance rule. This doctrine flips liability if a driver has the last clear chance to avoid a wreck but fails to take the proper action. At first blush, it seems like a passenger car driver should have avoided a parked truck in the road. But various other factors could have made the collision unavoidable. For example, heavy traffic might have limited the motorists’ ability to maneuver or a hill might have limited visibility.

Unless the last clear chance rule applied, the Freightliner driver in the above story is probably legally responsible for the Tampa car accident, because it is illegal for anyone to stop in a traffic lane.

Employer Liability in Florida Car Crash Cases

Since the Sunshine State has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country, it’s a fairly safe bet that the Freightliner driver did not have enough insurance to provide fair compensation in a dual fatal crash. Fortunately, Florida has very broad third party liability laws, and respondeat superior is the most common one. This rule applies if:

  • Employee: The tortfeasor (negligent driver) must be an employee for negligence purposes. Anyone that the employer controls, like a temporary worker, independent contractor, regular employee, or an unpaid volunteer, is probably an employee in this context.
  • Scope of Employment: Furthermore, the employee must be acting in the scope of employment at the time of the Florida car crash. This phrase is also very broadly defined. It encompasses any activity that benefits the employer in any way. That includes activity like driving an empty truck back to a warehouse.
  • Foreseeability: The accident must be a foreseeable result of the employee’s conduct. It is not foreseeable for an employee to steal a car out of the parking lot, but almost everything else is foreseeable.

In the unlikely event that respondeat superior does not apply, other theories, such as negligent hiring or negligent supervision, may apply.

Team Up with Assertive Lawyers

Liability is not always clear-cut, even in rear-end crashes. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.



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