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Featured Personal Injury Article
Can I Sue an Employer for Car Accidents Caused by Negligent Employees?
While there are many people who are involved in auto accidents when they are running errands, taking their kids to school or driving to the store, a fair number of motor vehicle collisions involve employees engaged in work-related tasks or errands. Although a negligent driver who is involved in a collision while performing services for the benefit of an employer may be financially liable for injuries to occupants of other vehicles, motorcyclists, bicyclists or pedestrians, this may be woefully inadequate if the employee is uninsured or underinsured. Because the owner(s) of a business will often have insurance coverage, the potential liability of an employer for car crashes caused by an employee can be important to obtaining full compensation for one’s medical costs, lost income (past and future), vehicle damage, pain and suffering and other types of damages.
While an employer may be liable for injuries and fatalities caused by a negligent worker’s car accident based on a number of legal theories, legal claims against employers in this situation can be complicated by a number of factors. Employers often hire people on an independent contractor (IC) basis to avoid “vicarious liability” for an employee’s negligent actions or misconduct. Business owners also frequently try to insulate their company from financial responsibility by claiming the employee was engaged in a personal errand rather than performing a function for the benefit of the employer.
While the specific basis for imposing liability on an employer for motor vehicle collisions involving negligent employees may vary based on state law, common legal theories that apply in many states include:
Vicarious Liability: The legal doctrine of vicarious liability permits holding an employer financially responsible for negligent acts of an employee in furtherance of the employer’s business and within the scope of employment. A straightforward example might include a driver of a furniture delivery truck who collides with a passenger vehicle while making a delivery. The employee may even be considered to be engaged in conduct within the scope of employment when the employer has not specifically asked the employer to engage in such a task, and the task is not one that the employee routinely performs. Liability for car accidents involving employees may even be imposed when the collision occurs outside business hours or while an employee is engaged in a company-related social event depending on the specific facts and circumstances.
Negligent Hiring, Retention and Supervision: It is a common strategy of insurance carriers in these types of personal injury lawsuits to dispute whether an employment relationship existed or to claim the employee was not acting within the scope of employment, but there are other legal theories that hold an employer accountable for his own negligence. While vicarious liability imputes the negligence of an employee to an employer merely based on the employer-employee relationship, claims of negligent hiring, negligent retention and negligent supervision impose liability on an employer for his or her own negligent conduct.
- Negligent Hiring: If an employer knows that a job applicant will need to engage in driving activity, the employer might be liable for hiring an employee without examining the employees driving record, confirming a valid driver’s license or other conducting other reasonable pre-hiring screening.
- Negligent Retention: Employers sometimes allows a worker to continue to perform deliveries or engage in other job-related driving after the employer knows or should know that the employee is an unsafe driver. For example, an employer that continues to allow an employee to drive despite a pattern of traffic tickets or accidents while working for the employer might be liable for negligent retention.
- Negligent Supervision: If an employer fails to institute appropriate training and work rules, such as prohibiting cell phone use while operating motor vehicle, this might constitute negligent supervision.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an auto collision caused by a negligent employee, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries. Because all legal claims are subject to legal deadlines called the statute of limitations, it is important to seek prompt legal advice.