Who Is Liable If I Am In an Accident With a Commercial Vehicle? 

 May 26, 2015

By  LMW Attorneys

Being in a car accident is never an easy experience. It can become even more complicated when the driver at fault was using a company or commercial vehicle at the time of the accident, or even using their own vehicle while on a company errand. While the driver is normally the one liable for an accident, his employer shares some of the blame when a commercial vehicle is in use or the employee is in the scope of his employment in his own vehicle.

Employer Liability

When an employee is driving a car as part of their employment, it falls under “Respondeat Superior.” This means the employers are held responsible when their employees are in an accident whether or not they are using a company car. There are three main forms of employer liability:

Employer Negligence

This is when an employer has acted negligent is some way, resulting in the accident. The employer has a duty to use reasonable due diligence to hire someone that will be a safe driver. For example if they hire someone with a poor driving record or someone without a commercial license, then the employer has acted negligently and may be responsible.  Under certain circumstances the employer may even be liable for punitive damages.

Negligent Supervision

When operating a business, employers have the duty to put reasonable policies to make sure their employees are driving safely. If these are not in place, and there is an accident, then the employer may be liable. A good example of this is where employers do not require that their vehicles be properly maintained, resulting in a mechanical failure.

Vicarious Liability

When an employee is using his or her employer’s vehicle with the employer’s knowledge and consent, even if not in the course of employment, the employer is liable for the negligent operation of its vehicle. But, in this scenario there are caps on what amount of damages can be attributed to the employer if the employee is not on an errand or in the course of employment. An example of vicarious liability is where the employee is given a take-home vehicle, and is using it on a personal errand, such as going grocery shopping. The employer is still liable for the employee’s negligent operation of the vehicle, subject to the caps on damages.

When is Someone “On the Job”?

Just because someone is in a company vehicle does not necessarily mean they are “on the job.” For example, if an individual is using their company car to run personal errands, then their employer may not be liable under the theory of “Respondeat Superior”, but may be liable under the capped theory of “Vicarious Liability”. This may sound like a distinction without a difference, but depending upon the severity of the injuries and damages, it can make a huge difference in the outcome of the case..

What Should I Do If I Have Been In an Accident With a Commercial Vehicle?

Unlike regular car accidents, you will not be dealing with the actual driver of the vehicle. Instead, the insurance claim will most likely go through the driver’s employer. A commercial driving accident can be a complex and sometimes long process, especially if the accident resulted in personal injuries.

If you or someone you love has been in an accident with a commercial vehicle, contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins Attorneys at Law. We will be with you every step of the way through your personal injury case to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve. Call LMW today to schedule your free consultation.