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The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Your trusted legal advisors since 1976

Runaway Semi-Truck in Davenport Kills One


Investigators shut down one of the most heavily-travelled roads in Polk County as they pieced together the details of a multi-vehicle accident.

Police state that a truck driver rolled through a stop sign at the intersection of South Boulevard West and Highway 27. An oncoming semi-truck, which was southbound on Highway 27, swerved to avoid a crash. As a result, the driver lost control of his rig. After rear-ending a Lexus SUV in the left turn lane, the semi-truck careened into a northbound Cadillac. The force of the crash killed the passenger and seriously injured the driver.

Haines City police indicated that charges were pending, but they did not say against whom.

First Party Liability

In multi-vehicle crashes, legal responsibility for the wreck is often difficult to determine. That’s partially because of the foreseeability rule, which is outlined below. So, a Tampa personal injury attorney must carefully sort things out. Targeting the wrong party in a legal action could lead to costly delays and perhaps even dismissal of the case.

Liability discussions usually start with the duty of reasonable care. Most noncommercial drivers must obey the rules of the road and drive defensively when they are behind the wheel. They must also be fully qualified to operate the vehicle. So, they must be sober, well-rested, and so on.

Commercial operators, such as truck drivers, often have a duty of highest care. This duty is a step up from reasonable care. For example, at stop signs, most noncommercial drivers can stop and go. Commercial drivers arguably have a duty to stop, wait for at least a second or two, and then go.

These duties apply in ordinary negligence claims. Negligence per se, which is a violation of a statute, works differently. In Florida, tortfeasors (negligent drivers) are presumptively liable for damages if:

  • They violate a safety law, and
  • That violation substantially causes injury.

The presumption of negligence becomes negligence as a matter of law if the tortfeasor violated a criminal traffic law, like reckless driving or DUI.

In both ordinary negligence and negligence per se claims, the damages must have been a foreseeable result of the tortfeasor’s conduct or misconduct. If a car leaves the road and hits a pedestrian, that’s a foreseeable result. If a doctor makes a medical mistake on the pedestrian during surgery, that’s not a foreseeable result.

Based on this discussion, an attorney could pursue a claim against the truck driver who ran the stop sign or the semi-truck driver who lost control of his rig. There are pros and cons to each approach.

Third Party Liability

Vicarious liability is one such consideration. These theories are especially important in wrongful death claims. Frequently, individual tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in these situations.

Respondeat superior, or “let the master answer,” is one of the most common vicarious liability theories in Florida. If a truck driver, Uber driver, or other commercial operator causes a car crash, the employer might be responsible for damages. This doctrine applies if:

  • Employee: Even if they are technically owner-operators or independent contractors, most commercial drivers are “employees” for negligence purposes. The employer exerts some control over the individual, whether it be hours worked, route assigned, or something else.
  • Scope of Employment: This respondeat superior prong is equally broad. Any acts which benefit employers in any way are within the scope of employment. That includes driving an empty vehicle which bears the company logo. The employer benefits from the free advertising.

Other vicarious liability theories include negligent entrustment owner liability and negligent supervision employer liability. Negligent supervision typically applies in assault and other intentional tort cases.

Contact Experienced Lawyers

Vehicle collisions often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident lawyer, contact The Matassini Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions. Since 1976, The Matassini Law Firm has been helping victims of personal injury and their families throughout Florida.

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