Fatal Crash In Palm City
A motorist died after a dump truck slammed into his rolled-over vehicle on the Florida Turnpike.
The wreck happened near the intersection of the Turnpike and Martin Downs Golf Club Road. For unknown reasons, a southbound car rolled over in traffic. Moments later, a trailing dump truck violently collided with the overturned vehicle, trapping the driver inside. First responders freed the man and airlifted him to a nearby hospital with serious injuries, where he was later declared dead.
Florida Highway Patrol investigators said that the victim was not wearing a seat belt.
First Party Liability in Car Crash Cases
Normally, if Vehicle A hits Vehicle B, A is liable for B’s damages. There are a number of exceptions, and the sudden emergency doctrine is perhaps the most prominent one. This defense excuses negligent conduct or misconduct if the tortfeasor (negligent driver):
- Encountered a “sudden emergency” and
- Reacted reasonably in the wake of that unexpected situation.
The sudden emergency rule is normally a legal question, which means that the judge usually decides whether or not the defense applies.
Normally, another car crash is not a “sudden emergency” in this context, because these incidents are fairly common. The fact that the first driver rolled over might make this incident qualify as a sudden emergency but probably not, because the first vehicle did not roll over onto the other side of the road and into oncoming traffic.
Even if the rollover was a “sudden emergency,” which is doubtful, the defense may not apply in the above story anyway, if the dump truck driver was following too closely or otherwise failed to avoid the rolled-over vehicle.
Florida recognizes the so-called seat belt defense, so insurance companies can try to limit damages based on seat belt non-use. However, the defense must generally introduce credible evidence that seat belts are effective and that a seat belt would have protected the victim in that particular car accident. Many times, such evidence is either deeply flawed or not available at all.
Third Party Liability
When a commercial operator, such as a dump truck driver, causes a car crash, the respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) rule usually applies. According to this doctrine, the tortfeasor’s employer is responsible for damages if:
- Employee: In negligence cases, any person that the employer controls in any way, including owner-operators and independent contractors, are usually “employees.”
- Course and Scope: Similarly, even if the dump truck was empty, the driver was probably acting within the course and scope of employment, since any task that benefits the employer in any way normally qualifies under this definition.
If the dump truck driver was a city or other government worker, a shorter statute of limitations may apply, because most such victims must file a notice of claim.
Contact Assertive Attorneys
Even seemingly straightforward car crash cases often involve complicated legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.