Bringing Punitive Damages to the Forefront of Florida Trucking Litigation
Having punitive damages imposed against a trucking company is often a source of great anxiety for defense attorneys and their trucking company clients.
Florida attorneys skilled in the handling of truck accident cases have developed the knowledge to know when punitive damages are warranted in a given case. Punitive damages claims are inherently fact driven and also require the plaintiff to step through several procedural hoops, but given the often egregious negligence and the severity of injuries which often result from trucking accidents, punitive damages are often warranted. Therefore, it is vital for practitioners to identify facts, timely collect the evidence and to understand the intricacies of Florida law to sustain a punitive damages claim against a trucking company.
Florida statute permits punitive damages only where there is clear and convincing evidence that an individual tortfeasor committed “intentional misconduct or gross negligence.” A plaintiff seeking punitive damages against a trucking company must meet the requirements of Section 768.72(2), Florida Statues, and prove the trucking company:
- Actively and knowingly participated in the punitive conduct;
- The officers, directors, or managers of the corporation knowingly condoned, ratified, or consented to such conduct; or
- The corporation engaged in conduct that constituted gross negligence and that contributed to the loss, damages, or injury suffered by the claimant.
By requiring affirmative knowledge and/or action of the trucking company itself, Florida law has helped to insulate and provide additional protection against punitive damages to Florida trucking companies. To sustain a punitive damages claim in Florida against a trucking company after a trucking crash, it is imperative that plaintiffs identify and establish both the punitive conduct of the truck driver and the punitive conduct of the trucking company
Here are factors to consider when determining the viability of a punitive damages claim against a trucking company in Florida:
- Were the truck driver and/or trucking company in violation of any of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs)?
- Did the truck driver have an unsafe driving record that the trucking company knew or should have known about?
- Were the trucking company’s own policies and procedures incongruous with the FMCSRs?
- Did the company’s work environment facilitate fatigued driving and/or incentivize violations of the hours of operation limitations imposed by the FMCSRs?
- Had the truck driver ever been cited by the company for driving violations?
- Did the company permit the operation of trucks with known physical defects likely to cause hazardous or unsafe driving conditions?
The availability of punitive damages influences the direction of trucking litigation. At Searcy Denney we have the experience handling these very specialized types of cases. We are always happy to provide additional information or answer questions.