What is Employer Liability in Personal Injury Cases?
What is employer liability in Personal Injury Law?
In this article, we provide 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 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 negligence”?
Employer negligence is anything from hiring unqualified employees, to failing to perform background checks on felonious employees. When employees sign a contract, they’re agreeing to abide by a standard of care for their position.
There are minimum requirements for an employee to drive a commercial vehicle. For truck operators, these fall under FMCSA standards. The employer should first ensure potential employee’s driving record. This means no suspensions, no tickets, and no arrests. It’s also necessary to ensure they do not carry any previous violations or infractions on their record.
What is employer liability pertaining to Personal Injury?
There are two main ways that an employer is normally liable for a car accident caused by an employee::
- Negligence (see above) that’s the fault of the employee. This can mean a multitude of things. Usually, it means an employee acts in a manner that’s negligent. This could be speeding, or leaving the company vehicle unlocked, and it’s stolen. Negligence is an act of carelessness, while recklessness is an act that knowingly causes harm but persists.
- 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.
Don’t forget a thorough background check
Driving for a company is a very serious matter. Every aspect of a potential hire requires a thorough background check. An employer who fails to run a complete background check can be held liable for negligent supervision. This responsibility extends to regular drug testing, retraining of longtime employees for quality control, and more.
In other words, driving for a company means the potential hire must have a completely clean criminal and driving history. Drug and alcohol testing for should be random with no notice. As a result, if a potential hire is not honest, they will be caught. Driving for a company is very serious, thus every aspect of potential employees must uphold an exceptional duty of care.
Is “negligent supervision” part of employer liability?
“Negligent supervision” is another way an employer can be held liable for car accidents an employee is the cause of. This, again, falls under the umbrella of “negligence”. At minimum, there must be safety standards in place. Not only in place, but enforced consistently either utilizing retraining practices, seminars, or staff meetings. It is mandatory by law that drivers comply with safety and traffic laws in their state. They also must abide by any state specific laws when driving interstate.
For truck drivers, there are also “logging requirements” enforced for employers under the FMCSA standards. These are enforced for every trucking carrier in the country that transports cargo and/or is not 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 receives a thorough background check and performs their job with a reasonable duty of care. It becomes a problem for the employer when corners are cut during hiring. Cutting corners allows irresponsible employees to join the team.
What is legal recourse for employer liability?
Finally, what is “legal recourse” and how does it apply in cases of employer liability?
Legal recourse applies if the “agent” (employee) is performing a task for the “principle” (the employer) at the time of the accident. A Board Certified lawyer can determine whether this law applies during 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. Together, a credible client and Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer can obtain maximum compensation.