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Accidents Involving Company Vehicles

Posted on: April 14, 2017 9:00 AM
Adrian Bridges
Adrian Bridges currently represents clients in Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice cases in both State and Federal courts. A graduate of Florida State University College of Law, Adrian served as an Assistant Public Defender in the First Judicial Circuit where he gained trial experience representing indigent citizens accused of violating Florida Law before joining Michles & Booth in 2009.

Accident involving business vehicles
This is Adrian Bridges from Michles and Booth. Today we’re going to be talking to you about commercial vehicle accidents. Now in our world that means any type of an accident involving any type of vehicle – it could be a car, be a dump truck, or an 18-wheeler – anything that’s owned by a business.

So if you or your loved ones, they get in an accident, get out of the car, and you realize the person that hit you is driving a work truck. First question may be, “When is that business responsible for the accident?”

When is a business responsible for a car accident?

scope of employment with auto accidentsWell the easy answer to that question is, if the vehicle is being driven by an employee of the business, who’s on the job or on the clock. Then that business is not only responsible because they own the vehicle, but they’re responsible because they’re responsible for the actions of their employees.

Now there are some exceptions. If the employee’s not doing what he’s supposed to be doing, if he’s off the clock. In those circumstances the business may not be responsible. But if they own the car, and their employee’s driving it, and he’s on the job, then the business is responsible.

Another situation can arise if the business’ vehicle is being driven by somebody else, but with that business’ permission. Well in those circumstance, the business is also responsible in Florida, because they own the vehicle itself.

An Employee Driving A Personal Vehicle

There could be other circumstances where an employee of the business is on the job, but they’re driving their own personal vehicle, or they’re driving another company’s vehicle. In those circumstances, the employer of the business is responsible of the actions of its employees, and the owner of the vehicle that’s being driven, could also be responsible, again under Florida’s laws.

A Vehicle Being Driven By Independent Contractors

There are also situations where a vehicle could be driven by an independent contractor. Often times that happens in the case of 18-wheeler accidents. The driver of the 18-wheeler may own his own vehicle, but he might be driving as a contractor for a large company. In those circumstances, the larger company often provides coverage to the driver. The driver may have his own policy, which is also responsible.

What to do if involved in an accident –

That’s why it’s important if you’re at the scene of an accident, to find out whether or not the person that hit you was on the job. Find out who his employer, or her employer is, and find out who the owner of the vehicle is as well.

Now, when law enforcement comes to the scene, they’ll try to gather the information about the driver and the owner, and they’ll give you that on a short form, so that you’ll have that information, but it’s important to learn.

So to summarize everything, if an employee is acting within the course and scope of their employment, in other words, they’re doing their job and they’re at work when they’re involved in an accident, the business will be responsible for the actions of that employee.

How are commercial accidents different?

Now the next topic is how are commercial accidents different than car accidents involving regular people who aren’t working, who aren’t an employee of a business at the time that they’re involved in an accident?

corporations and individual get fair treatment under the lawPeople are sometimes concerned because they get in an accident, the defendant, the at-fault or responsible party, is a major corporation who has more money, more assets, than you. And you’re worried the law may not apply the same way to that company, to that big defendant.

Well the good news is, is the law applies exactly the same to a business, as it does to a regular person. That doesn’t mean however, that there aren’t some important differences to keep in mind, if you’ve been involved in an accident with a person who caused it is an employee or business owner.

Business Insurance Policies

One of the biggest differences is that many larger corporations, while they carry some type of insurance to protect them, a lot of times they have a much larger or higher self-ensured limit.

What that means is that the company has to come out of its own pocket up to a certain amount of money, before their insurance will ever step in to pay a claim. Sometimes those limits can be $250,000, or as high as $1 million, or even more depending on the size of the corporation.

What that means is that if they cause an accident, if they’re responsible for that accident, the money to compensate you for the damages comes out of that corporation’s own pockets, not out of their insurance policy.

Sometimes that can make a case harder to settle because there’s a direct impact on that business’ bottom line. In those circumstances, trying to reach a fair settlement can be difficult because it could potentially impact the ability of that business to continue conducting its business.

Business Headquartered Out-Of-State

Another major difference, is that many larger businesses, especially those involving commercial trucks, those businesses are actually headquartered outside the state of Florida. When businesses are headquartered outside the state of Florida, if you bring a claim against them, and that claim exceeds a certain amount, sometimes those defendants can force a case to go to federal court instead of state court.

There are many distinctions between state and federal courts, so it’s important to figure out early on whether or not that business is a resident of the same state that you live in, or if they’re a resident of another state.

Business Litigation Policies

Still another difference is, that some businesses have a policy where they defend every single case. Doesn’t matter whether or not it’s clear that they were responsible, or whether there’s a question as to responsibility there, or some corporations, some large businesses, that simply refuse to settle cases, and instead exercise their right to defend every single case in court.

What that means to the victims of accidents, is that in those circumstances they may have no other choice, no matter how legitimate their claim may be, but to file a lawsuit and look to a jury to resolve the dispute.

Issues With The Business Vehicle

The other thing to keep in mind, is that commercial accidents can be different, because it may not be as simple as the driver of their truck, the employee, not paying attention and causing an accident. Sometimes with larger commercial vehicles, and this applies to dump trucks, or 18-wheelers, those big vehicles going down the highway, it may be that the driver of the vehicle doesn’t do anything through their driving to cause an accident. In other words, they’re not checking their phone, they’re not being distracted.

It may be that there’s something wrong with the vehicle itself. Whether it’s worn out tires, improper safety equipment. So it’s important if you’ve been involved in an accident involving a commercial vehicle, that you take every effort to preserve the evidence, or request from the business that that evidence be preserved, if you feel like the accident was caused because the vehicle itself wasn’t properly maintained by the business owner.

In those circumstances, the business has a duty not only to its employees, but to all of us on the road. To make sure that the vehicle itself is in safe working order, before it enters the public roadway. And if a business doesn’t do their job, if they’re negligent, they can be held responsible because of the harms or the losses that are caused by their inability to maintain a safe commercial vehicle.

Fairness Under The Law

The good news is, despite all of those things, the law in the state of Florida still applies exactly the same to both the victim and the defendant, whether or not that defendant is your next-door neighbor, a complete stranger, or a big business.

As the victim, you still bear the burden of proving your injuries, and proving that the defendant was at fault for causing the accident. And the defendant, even a large business, still has to defend the case exactly the same. They don’t get a free pass. They don’t get any concessions just because they’re a major corporation.

So in closing, if you or a loved one have been involved in an accident, involving a commercial vehicle, call us today for a free consultation. You can reach us at 1-800-438-3606. Or visit us online at www.michlesbooth.com. Thanks.


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