When Can an Employer Be Held Liable After an Accident?
As an employed driver, you are expected to carry out your duties as assigned by your employer. But, what happens if you cause an accident while performing the said duties with the car and on behalf of your employer? Can your employer be sued for the crash? Simply put, yes, legal action can be taken against the employer, but there must be sufficient grounds to do so. Employer liability can arise in the event of an accident caused by a driver if there is negligence on the employer’s part or if the theory of vicarious liability is applied as outlined below.
An employer is expected to vet a driver comprehensively before hiring. For instance, an employer should ensure that the driver has a valid commercial driver’s license and has enough experience required for the job. The employer should as well check the prospective driver’s past driving record and carry out a drug test. In other words, a hiring company has a responsibility to ensure that a commercial driver is fit for the job in every aspect. Failure to do so amounts to negligence, and the employer can be sued if the driver causes an accident and it is determined that the employer did not vet the driver accordingly before hiring.
As an employer, once you have hired a driver, it is your duty to ensure that he or she adheres to the set safety standards and laws. In essence, this means that if you have commercial drivers working for you, it is your responsibility to ensure that they follow logging requirements as per the federal and state laws. You should also see to it that the cargo is appropriately weighted and loaded. If an employer neglects the duty to check and ensure that the driver(s) are showing levelheaded care and proficiency in carrying the job as required, that employer can be sued in case of an accident.
Under the theory of vicarious liability, legal action can be taken against an employer for an accident caused by their driver even when the hiring company is not necessarily at fault. The theory of vicarious liability states that when an agent acts in a certain way, he or she is acting, in the same manner, the principle would have. In this context, the employer is the “principle”, and when he or she gives instructions to the driver (agent), it is as if that employer is the one executing the orders. For instance, if a driver is instructed to pick up cargo and crashes as he makes his or her way to collect the freight, legal action can be taken against the employer. However, if the driver makes a stop at a coffee shop and is in a collusion while getting the coffee, the employer cannot be held liable. Additionally, the employer is not liable for malicious acts of an employee such as when the driver decides to disobey traffic lights leading to an accident.
Seeking Legal Assistance
If you or a person you know has been in a car crash in which a hiring company can be held legally responsible, contact the best lawyers in your area immediately. An attorney will help you analyze the circumstances surrounding your case and give the best legal advice. Most often, consultation sessions are free, so you can ask anything you need to know at no cost.