Runaway Semi-Truck Kills Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy
Investigators are still looking for answers after a ten-year veteran, who had received numerous commendations, rear-ended a large truck on southbound Interstate 95.
The accident occurred in Titusville near the State Road 50 interchange. Field Training Officer Kevin Stanton was driving in the far left lane when a semi-truck just ahead of him experienced mechanical problems. According to the driver, whose name was not released, a tire separated and the operator lost control of the vehicle. The truck careened into the far left lane, where it collided with Deputy Stanton’s marked field cruiser. He was declared dead at the scene.
According to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Stanton had an excellent service record that included a nomination for the prestigious Life Saving Award.
Establishing First Party Liability in Florida Car Crash Cases
The above story is an excellent example of a reverse fault case. Typically, a motorist who rear-ends another motorist is liable for the collision. But there are some very prominent exceptions.
One is the so-called “swoop-and-squat” insurance fraud scam that’s very common in Florida. One driver cuts off another one, brakes suddenly, and induces a rear-end crash. Deputy Stanton’s death falls into this category as well. Although he technically rear-ended the other vehicle, he was clearly not at fault for the collision.
To ascertain legal responsibility for damages, attorneys must examine all evidence in the case. That includes:
Accident Reports: Normally, police officers are not biased in these cases. However, their reports often are prejudiced. If the victim is unavailable to give a statement, perhaps due to a serious injury or wrongful death, the reporting officer probably only gets one side of the story.
Participant Statements: The tortfeasor (negligent driver) and victim usually do not lie either. But their accounts may be significantly different, because they have different perspectives of the Tampa car crash.
Electronic Evidence: All new vehicles have Event Data Recorders that automatically capture information like steering angle, engine RPM, and vehicle speed at the moment of collision. Furthermore, many commercial vehicles have Electronic Logging Devices that automatically record hours of service. ELDs are very useful in drowsy driving cases.
Video: Many intersections have red-light cameras and many local businesses have surveillance cameras. Additionally, many commercial vehicles have dashcams.
In Florida, the victim must collect enough evidence to establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Then, an attorney must present a compelling case to the jury in order to win maximum compensation.
There is also a causation issue in this wreck. At trial, the shipping company would most likely claim that a defective tire, and not driver error, caused the crash; if that is true, the tire manufacturer would probably be strictly liable for damages under the defective product rule. The shipping company, and not the individual tortfeasor, is the proper defendant, as outlined below.
Third Party Liability in Florida Car Crash Cases
Under the respondeat superior doctrine, an employer is liable for the negligent acts of its workers. This rule applies if:
Employee: In this context, an “employee” is not someone who gets a W-2 but someone whom the employer controls to some extent. So, owner-operators, unpaid volunteers, independent contractors, and private freelancers in Tampa are all usually “employees” for negligence purposes.
Scope of Employment: Similarly, employees act within the scope of employment not just during their normal job duties. They also act within the scope of employment if they do anything that benefits the employer in any way, such as driving an empty truck to a warehouse.
Other employer liability theories include negligent hiring and negligent supervision. All these theories are very important in catastrophic Florida injury cases, because individual tortfeasors often don’t have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation.
Reach Out to Assertive Lawyers
The tortfeasor is often not the only party that’s responsible for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.