Employer Car Accident Liability
Work-related motor vehicle crashes are a common occurrence throughout the United States.
A recent study based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that roughly 40 percent of car accidents nationwide are caused by employees driving to perform job duties. Yet less than half of American employers currently require their workers to complete driver safety programs before hitting the road.
If you were involved in a car accident with someone driving for work-related reasons or operating a company car, it’s important to learn who can be held responsible for the crash. In California, employer liability often comes into play. An experienced lawyer at the Law Offices of Pius Joseph can explain what to expect in these cases.
To learn more about how employer liability could affect your California car accident claim, continue reading. You can also call or contact us for a free consultation.
Respondeat Superior Liability in California
Under California law, employers are sometimes considered vicariously liable for the actions of their employees based on the rule of respondeat superior. The respondeat superior doctrine says that an employer may be held responsible for wrongful acts committed by its employees if the negligent action occurred while performing duties that fall within the “scope of their employment.”
Legally speaking, the scope of their employment means activities that workers are normally required to engage in as part of their routine job responsibilities. A delivery driver is a good example of someone who might be involved in a car accident while driving within the scope of their employment.
Even though employers do not have direct control over their employees’ every action, the law says they can be indirectly at fault for employees’ actions to benefit the company. Put simply, employer liability is simply one of the costs of doing business.
A California employer can be held responsible for the wrongful conduct of its employees if:
- The employer was negligent in the screening, hiring, or training of their employees, and unqualified or untrained employees engage in wrongful conduct.
- The employer encourages or directly authorizes their employee or employees to engage in wrongful or criminal acts.
- The employee commits a wrongful act either in the scope of their usual employment or in response to a direct request made by the employer, whether or not the employer specifically authorizes the wrongful act.
Who Is Liable: The Employer or the Driver?
Depending on the circumstances surrounding a work-related car accident in California, liability could rest with either a driver or their employer.
Employees might be liable for work-related accidents if the collision occurred when they were not acting within the scope of their employment or not technically “at work.” An employee could be held responsible for a work-related crash if:
- They were driving for work-related reasons but stopped to complete a personal errand on the way back and caused a crash.
- They were commuting to or from work when the accident occurred.
- They were on a meal break or unpaid rest time at the time of the wreck.
- Their intentional act of harm was the direct cause of the accident.
Employers may be vicariously liable for work-related car accidents involving their employees if:
- The accident was caused by the negligence of an employee acting within the scope of their job duties.
- The employer asked the employee to drive for work-related reasons without verifying that the employee had a valid driver’s license.
- The employer hired the employee without investigating their driving record.
- The employer provided the employee with a company-owned vehicle that was not properly maintained and therefore unsafe to drive.
- The employer implicitly or explicitly encouraged the employee to engage in wrongful acts, such as speeding or driving without adequate rest.
What If the Driver Was an Independent Contractor?
To hold an employer liable for a work-related car accident, injured victims must demonstrate that the driver was a legal employee of the employer. Some workers are legally classified as independent contractors, which means they are not officially employees. Instead, they are considered self-employed.
In most cases, independent contractors are workers who:
- Are in business for themselves
- Have specialized skills or trades
- Are not regular employees of a particular company
- Perform services for multiple customers or clients
- Set their own fees and working hours
- Provide their own workspace, equipment, or transportation
- Decide how their work should be done
If an independent contractor is involved in a work-related car accident, they are not protected by the vicarious liability of an employer. If an independent contractor causes a crash, claims will proceed just like they would if you were in an accident with another driver. You would file a claim with the independent contractor’s own insurance company for compensation.
What Should I Do After a California Car Accident?
You can take several steps to protect your California car accident claim. Here are some tips:
- Check for injuries: Call 911 to get law enforcement and paramedics to the crash site.
- Gather evidence from the crash scene: If you’re able, take photos of the accident scene, get insurance information from all drivers involved, and ask any eyewitnesses for contact information.
- Seek prompt medical attention: If you didn’t need immediate medical treatment, visit an emergency room or your physician as soon as possible. A doctor’s examination can rule out any undetected or delayed-onset injuries, such as a concussion. Seeing a physician also establishes a permanent record of your post-accident condition.
- Follow doctor’s orders: Attend all follow-up appointments and heed your physician’s advice to demonstrate that you take your health seriously.
- Keep track of accident-related expenses: Collect all medical bills, repair invoices, and receipts from any incidental costs you incur due to the crash.
- Record your symptoms in a pain journal: Keep written notes of your daily pain levels and physical limitations so you don’t have to rely on your memory.
- Avoid discussing the accident with others: Don’t give statements to insurance companies or lawyers from the employer’s side until you’ve spoken to a car accident attorney.
- Contact a skilled car accident attorney: The Law Offices of Pius Joseph has a proven history of success representing California car accident victims in the most complex cases.
Proving Employer Liability
Employers and their insurance providers will do everything possible to deny responsibility for an accident caused by one of their workers. You’ll need compelling proof of employer liability to obtain compensation for a work-related car accident claim. An attorney can help you identify and preserve valuable evidence, such as:
- Employer hiring and screening records, which can indicate that an employer was negligent in their employment process
- Proof of employment documents to demonstrate that the driver was a legal employee of the company
- Repair and maintenance records for company-owned vehicles to show that the vehicle was not properly maintained
- Employee schedules, assignments, and dispatch instructions, which may show unrealistic demands or insufficient safety precautions on behalf of employers
- Written safety procedures or training documents to demonstrate that employees were not adequately prepared to drive for the company
- Testimony from experts like accident reconstruction specialists, who can map out the physical causes and effects of a traffic collision
What Compensation Can I Receive After a Car Accident Caused by an Employee?
If you plan to pursue an employer liability claim after an accident caused by an employee, you may be entitled to compensation such as:
- Your past, present, and future medical expenses: The costs of any emergency department visits, hospitalizations, surgeries, co-pays, and other medical expenses may be reimbursed in a successful car accident claim.
- Incidental costs related to the accident: Compensation may be available for transportation costs to medical appointments, durable medical equipment, or home accessibility modifications.
- Vehicle repair or replacement costs: If your car was damaged, you could be compensated for the costs of repairing the damage or replacing it entirely.
- Lost income or future earning potential: If your injuries caused you to miss work or prevented you from performing your previous duties, you could be reimbursed for lost income or projected earning potential.
- Pain and suffering: You could be entitled to money for the physical pain and emotional anguish you endured due to your accident-related injuries.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today
Car accidents involving employer liability present unique challenges. Instead of going up against an individual’s insurance company, you’ll be requesting compensation from an insurer bent on protecting its corporate client at all costs. With such high stakes, you need a battle-tested Pasadena trial lawyer from the Law Offices of Pius Joseph on your side.
Founding attorney Pius Joseph has a reputation for standing up for victims’ rights in Pasadena and throughout California. His relentless advocacy has helped hundreds of clients recover millions of dollars in rightful compensation. Let him help you, too.
Serious accidents need serious lawyers. Call or contact us today to learn how we’ll tackle your case and demand the results you deserve.