When a driver is involved in car accidents, after seeking any necessary medical attention, it is natural to start thinking about the costs that are going to be associated with the accident if there are any injuries or property damage involved. When the negligent driver involved is driving a company car, it is possible the driver’s employer may be responsible for the driver’s actions.
Under the tort doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is responsible for the actions of an employee that are done in the performance of the employee’s employment duties. This means that if an employee is driving a company car, and is negligent in its operation thereby causing an accident, the employer is considered equally liable, and can be sued to seek compensation for injuries sustained in car accidents.
When determining whether or not an employer is liable for the employee’s actions, a judge or jury looks to whether the employee was within the scope of his or her employment duties, or if the employee was performing a special errand for the employer when the accident occurred. Just because an employee is driving a company car does not mean employer liability is automatic. If the employee was supposed to be driving to a specific place and instructed to return to headquarters, but instead deviated in the opposite direction at which point the accident happened, the employer might not be found liable. If the employer is not receiving a benefit from the trip, it is not likely that liability will be shifted to the employer. Additionally, if an employee is on the way to or from work, or on a lunch break, the employer is not likely to be liable under respondeat superior.
The ability to sue the employer does not mean that the negligent driver is no longer liable. In most cases, the negligent driver who is the employee is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. If an award is granted to the plaintiff, the employer and employee are both responsible for the award, but depending on the percentage of liability assigned to the employer, the employer may have to pay the judgment and later seek compensation from the employee.
The employer may also be liable for an employee’s actions based on other legal theories. For example if the employer is aware that the employee is a bad driver or has a history of drunk driving, and still allows him or her to drive, the employer may be liable for negligent entrustment. Similarly, an employer who expects an employee driver to drive long hours even when tired can be liable for negligence in creating a dangerous situation.
If you have been injured in a car accident, you are not always limited to the driver who caused the accident in terms of seeking compensation. You may have additional avenues to receive the compensation you deserve. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Reyes Browne Reilley for a free consultation today.