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If you get into a car accident involving a commercial or corporate vehicle, whether it’s a passenger car or a large semi-truck, it could be difficult to determine who is legally liable—even if it is clear the commercial driver caused the crash.
The following are a few of the most common questions people tend to have when dealing with an injury claim after a car accident involving a commercial or corporate vehicle.
In what situations are companies liable for their drivers’ conduct?
A legal theory known as “vicarious liability” is what typically makes employers responsible for accidents their employees cause. The general principle of vicarious liability is that the actions of an employee are the same as those of the employer.
However, vicarious liability may only apply if the accident was unintentional and happened during the scope of the driver’s employment. If, for example, the employee was driving the company car for a reason not related to work, the company may not be liable. Or, if the employee was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, he or she may be held personally liable instead of the company.
Generally, however, vicarious liability exists such thatany losses and injuries resulting from the conduct of an employed driver should be the burden of the employer.
How does the driver’s employment status affect my personal injury claim?
It’s important to know if the driver is an independent contractor or an employee of the company in question. If the driver is an independent contractor, then the company may not be liable for any of the driver’s acts. To that end, you will need an aggressive personal injury lawyer to prove that the driver was not acting solely as an independent contractor or to prove that the employer should still be responsible.
If the employer controls the manner and means through which the work must be performed, the driver is likely to be an employee. However, if the employer controls the results associated with the work, but not how those results are achieved, the driver may be deemed independent contractor.
Which acts fall within the scope of employment?
Because the “scope of employment” is such a crucial consideration in automobile accident injury claims, it is important to understand the types of acts would lead to a company’s responsibility. Factors to consider include:
The employee’s intent
The nature, location and time of the conduct in question
The type of work for which the employee was hired
Acts that would be reasonably expected of the employee
The amount of freedom an employee has when performing his or her job duties
What if the driver behaved intentionally?
Again, one of the most important stipulations in declaring a company liable is that the actions were unintentional. If there was any element of intent, such as a driver purposefully using a vehicle as a weapon, driving with outrageous recklessness or gross negligence or being drunk being the wheel, that driver might then be personally liable for the accident and any auto accident injuries that result.
Contact A New York Car Accident Lawyer
For more information on moving ahead with a personal injury claim, consult an experienced New York automobile accidents attorneys at Robinson & Yablon, P.C. We have more than 100 years of combined legal experience and proudly serve clients in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.