If you’re injured by a negligent driver in a traffic accident in southern California, you are entitled by law to compensation.
But if the driver who crashed into you was working and “on the clock” when the accident happened, is the driver’s employer also liable?
How is liability determined in these cases, and how can that determination impact your legal rights and your compensation?
You need to know, because anyone could be injured in our congested southern California traffic.
Where does legal responsibility fall if an employee, while on the clock, drives negligently and injures you in a traffic collision?
Employers can be held liable in two different ways for an accident and injuries.
Employers can be held directly accountable if they make poor hiring decisions or if the employees and/or the business itself is supervised negligently.
Employers can also be held indirectly liable for the negligence of employees who are on the clock.
When employers hire drivers, those employers have a “duty of care” to investigate a prospective driver’s past driving record.
To drive a company-owned vehicle, the employer should also verify that the driver has a valid commercial driver’s license.
Employers must also enforce reasonable safety practices, ensure that company-owned vehicles are properly maintained, and monitor the performance of their drivers.
WHAT IS “VICARIOUS” LIABILITY?
In some cases, employers who are negligent about these duties may be found directly liable when an accident with injuries takes place.
An employer’s liability may also be “vicarious” when an employee’s negligence is assigned indirectly or “imputed” to the employer under the legal concept known as “respondeat superior,” a term from Latin meaning “let the superior respond.”
However, employers may be vicariously liable for employee negligence only when an employee’s negligence was unintentional and when it took place within the “scope” of the employee’s job performance.
In any particular accident involving an on-the-clock driver, a number of questions must be asked and answered to determine if an employer has vicarious liability, such as:
– Was the negligent driver legally an employee, or was the driver instead working for the employer as an independent contractor?
– Was the driver’s negligence unintentional or intentional?
– When the accident took place, was the driver acting within the “scope” of his or her job duties?
WHEN IS VICARIOUS LIABILITY APPLICABLE?
“Respondeat superior” only applies to an employer if a driver is an employee, not a contractor, and was actually working on the employer’s behalf when the collision took place.
For instance, if an office worker is sent out to purchase office supplies, and that worker crashes into you while on the way to the office supply store, the employer in such a case potentially could be held liable.
But if instead of returning directly to work, that same office worker decides to stop in for some coffee at Starbucks, and that employee crashes into you and injures you in the Starbucks’ parking lot, because the worker was not acting at that moment on the employer’s behalf, in that instance, the employer should not and probably will not be held liable for the accident and injury.
Employers are not considered responsible for intentional acts of harm committed by employees.
For example, if you cut off that same office worker in traffic as he or she is leaving Starbucks, and he or she intentionally chooses to retaliate by running you off the road or by crashing into your vehicle, the driver’s employer has no liability for that kind of wrongful intentional behavior by an employee.
WHO IS AN EMPLOYEE AND WHO IS AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR?
An injured accident victim seeking compensation from a negligent driver’s employer will have to prove that the driver was an employee and was not working as a contractor.
If a driver who injured you was operating his or her personal vehicle, using his or her own gas, oil, and insurance, and if no taxes are withheld from the driver’s pay, the driver is probably a contractor, and responsibility for accidents caused by the driver will probably be the driver’s alone.
In California, the majority of injury claims are settled out-of-court. If you are injured by a negligent driver in Pasadena or the greater Los Angeles area, a personal injury attorney can review the details of the accident and your injury, determine who may be liable, and negotiate for your compensation.
You must have an attorney’s help.
California personal injury law is complex, and vicarious liability cases are particularly complicated.
Personal injury lawyers are experienced negotiators who regularly handle negotiations for their injured clients.
If an acceptable settlement amount is not offered during out-of-court negotiations, a personal injury attorney will take your case to trial and advocate aggressively for the compensation you need. But you must put your attorney on the case quickly if you have been injured by a negligent driver.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU’RE INJURED IN A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT?
After an accident with injuries, you must notify your insurance company that you’ve been in an accident, but do not make any statement, sign any insurance forms, or agree to a settlement offer before consulting a personal injury lawyer.
If your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, refer the company to your attorney.
A personal injury attorney will handle all of the legal aspects of your case while you focus on regaining your health.
In the state of California, anyone who has been injured by another driver’s carelessness or negligence is entitled to complete compensation for his or her medical care, for wages lost due to being injured, for pain and suffering, and for all other losses and damages arising from the accident.
When an injury is catastrophic – such as a spinal cord injury or a traumatic brain injury, an injury resulting in amputation, or any injury leading to paralysis or permanent disability – that injury victim will require the maximum amount of compensation that is available.
An experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney can help.
Your health must be your highest priority.
If you are injured in the greater Los Angeles area or anywhere in southern California by another person’s negligence, a California personal injury lawyer will protect your rights and fight for the compensation – and for the justice – that you need and deserve.