Fatal Commercial Truck Accident in Martin County
A 68-year-old Okeechobee man is dead after a dump truck veered into oncoming traffic and struck a pickup truck.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the wreck occurred near the intersection of State Road 710 and Martin Highway. A 43-year-old man behind the wheel of a dump truck smashed head-on into a pickup truck which contained two passengers. The driver was declared dead at the scene. A passenger in the pickup truck was rushed to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. The dump truck driver also suffered minor injuries.
First Party Liability in Vehicle Collisions
In wrong-way crashes like the one described above, liability may seem fairly straightforward. But in fact, these cases are some of the most factually and legally complex vehicle wrecks in Florida.
A phrase like “crossed the centerline” covers a great deal of territory. Some drivers momentarily drift just over the double yellow line and then return to their traffic lanes. Other drivers operate on the wrong side of the road for several miles. Still other drivers are somewhere in between.
All these drivers broke the law. But in Florida, negligence per se, or a violation of a safety law, is usually only a presumption of liability. Except in extreme cases, many jurors see these situations as one-off accidents. So, they want to see additional evidence.
This evidence may come from the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder. EDR capability varies by make and model. But generally, these gadgets measure and record things like:
- Steering angle and
- Vehicle speed.
If the EDR indicates that the driver pulled well over the center line and remained there without changing speeds, jurors are much more likely to conclude that the driver was negligent.
Furthermore, the last clear chance doctrine often comes up in wrong-way crashes. Even if the driver was negligent, the diver may not be legally responsible for damages. If the victim had a reasonable chance to avoid the crash, perhaps by changing speeds or lanes, legal responsibility falls on the victim and not the tortfeasor (negligent driver).
Significantly, there is a difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. Quite often, traffic or other conditions make emergency maneuvers, like quick lane changes, impossible to perform,
Third Party Liability in Florida
Dump truck drivers, Uber drivers, bus drivers, and other commercial operators have a higher duty of care than noncommercial drivers. So, it may be easier for a Port St. Lucie personal injury attorney to establish negligence in these situations.
Moreover, these situations often involve the respondeat superior doctrine. Employers, like the construction or other company which owned the dump truck, are liable for the negligent acts of their employees if:
- The tortfeasor was an employee
- Who was operating in the course and scope of employment at the time of the collision.
Florida law broadly defines both these elements. For example, a “employee” is not just a person who receives a regular paycheck. Independent contractors, owner-operators, and even unpaid volunteers are usually employees in this context.
Vicarious liability is especially important in large vehicle crashes. Many times, the victim’s injuries are so severe that the individual tortfeasor does not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation.
Contact an Assertive Lawyer
Vehicle collision victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie personal injury lawyer, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.