What is Employer Liability in Personal Injury Law?
What is employer liability in Personal Injury Law? In this article, we provide new information employees using company cars should know if they find themselves injured on the clock. Workplace accidents can happen to any employee. They even happen to the most responsible employees. What’s most important is knowing how to proceed on both the medical and legal side when they do.
Who is liable for employees driving company cars?
Using “the company car” isn’t new. Companies allow their employees to use company cars for the purpose of their duties. But what happens when an accident occurs while an employee is behind the wheel of a car that belongs to the company? Whether or not an employer is liable for an accident heavily relies on the legal aspects of the case. This means the employer’s responsibility toward the employee. This aspect of Personal Injury law is known as employer liability.
When employer liability arises, how, and why it occurs is the basis for this writeup. We’ll thoroughly discuss the types of negligence that lead to employer liability for company cars used by employees. We’ll also look at how a Board Certified Personal Injury lawyer fights to recover compensation on behalf of clients injured in the workplace. A case may settle during mediation or must go all the way to trial. Regardless, it’s important the lawyer representing an employee with injuries has experience with successful workplace injury verdicts.
What is employer liability as it pertains to Personal Injury?
There are two main ways that an employer is normally held responsible (“liable”) for a car accident caused by an employee on the clock, while using a company car:
- Negligence that’s the fault of the employee. This can mean a multitude of things. Usually, it means an employee was acting in a manner that can be considered negligent such as speeding, leaving a door unlocked resulting in the vehicle being stolen. Negligence is defined by carelessness, while recklessness is an act that is known to cause harm and acted upon regardless.
- Vicarious liability; this principle relates to the theory of “Respondeat Superior”.
As a reminder, the definition of Vicarious Liability is as follows:
“[…]Liability that a supervisory party (such as an employer) bears for the actionable conduct of a subordinate or associate (such as an employee) based on the relationship between the two parties.”
This would mean in a literal sense that the employer bears responsibility for any objectionable conduct on the part of the employee of whom they are in a supervisory capacity of. As described above, negligent actions of the employee can potentially fall upon the employer who hired them.
What is “employer negligence”?
Employer negligence can range from hiring an unqualified employee for a position where they are not suited to failing to perform a background check on an employee with a criminal record, who then drives under the influence while on the clock and puts the public in danger while behind the wheel.
There are minimum requirements that must be met if the employee is hired to drive a commercial vehicle. For truck driver employment, these would fall under FMCSA standards. The employer should first ensure a potential hire’s driver’s license is not suspended. It’s also necessary to ensure they do not carry any previous violations or infractions on their record.
Don’t forget the background check
Driving for a company should be taken very seriously, and every aspect of a potential hire should be thoroughly background checked before a decision s made. An employer who doesn’t bother with a background check, enforce regular drug testing, or whose hiring practices are rushed or not as thorough as they should be, and are found to be negligent, can be held liable for negligent supervision.
In other words, driving for a company means the potential hire must have a completely clean criminal and driving history. Drug and alcohol testing will be performed prior to hiring the employee and can be obtained at random with no notice to the employee after hire should the employer have a reason to suspect it is necessary. Driving for a company is taken very seriously and every aspect of potential employees is scrutinized heavily, for good reason.
Is “negligent supervision” considered employer liability?
“Negligent supervision” is another way an employer can be held liable for car accidents an employee is the cause of. At minimum, there should be safety standards in place and enforced consistently with training seminars. It is mandatory by law that drivers comply with the safety and traffic laws in their state. They also must abide by any state specific laws when crossing state lines on the clock.
For truck drivers, there are also “logging requirements” enforced for trucking employers under the FMCSA standards that need be enforced for every trucking carrier in the country that transports cargo and/or is not considered an independent contractor.
What is “vicarious liability”?
Vicarious Liability is a legal principle that implies the employer is not required to be found negligent of anything themselves to have litigation brought against them. This falls under the principles of the aforementioned employer liability. Being “vicariously liable” is a theory of law that necessitates that the actions of an “agent” (the employee doing a job with a duty of care) are nearly the same as the actions of the “principle” (the employer doing the hiring).
When the “principle” instructs its “agents” to perform a task, it’s the same as if the “principle” (the employer) performs the task themselves. In most cases, this is perfectly acceptable. The employee is thoroughly background checked and performs their job with the highest duty of care. It only becomes a problem for the employer if they cut corners in the hiring process. Cutting corners allows less responsible employees to join the team.
Legal recourse for employer liability
This rule only applies if the “agent” (the employee) is actually performing a task for the “principle” (the employer) at the time of the accident, injury, or death. A Board Certified lawyer will be able to determine whether this theory of law applies during the Discovery phase of a Personal Injury case. From there, they will choose to act on the client’s behalf based on the evidence they uncover during the process. Credibility is key. Always be forthcoming, honest, and credible with the lawyer. In workplace accident claims it’s important to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Lying or exaggerating won’t help, and the lawyer may already know the truth from their years of experience. A credible client and a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer can ensure that together, maximum compensation is recovered.