Understanding Liability in Car Accidents Involving Company Vehicles

If you’ve been injured in a car accident involving someone who was driving a company vehicle at the time, that person’s employer may be liable. This typically becomes an issue if the driver was operating a large truck, delivery vehicle or other commercial vehicle.

There are two main ways in which employers may be held liable for auto accidents caused by their employees:

Employer negligence

Examples of employer negligence include the negligent hiring of an employee or the negligent supervision of that employee. Any time a company hires people who will be driving company vehicles as part of their job duties, the employer must exercise due diligence in analyzing their records to ensure they are safe and responsible drivers.

If the employee will be driving a commercial vehicle, the employer must also make sure the individual has a valid commercial driver’s license that has not been suspended. Many employers take additional steps to ensure the safety of others on the road, including performing periodic drug testing of their drivers.

Employers must also have sound safety standards and policies in place on a companywide level, and ensure all drivers comply with these standards. If an employer has truck drivers, for example, it is responsible for enforcing all federal regulations for truckers, including logging requirements and the proper weighing and loading of cargo.

If businesses fail to ensure truck-driving employees exercise reasonable care and follow all these regulations, they could be liable for negligence if an accident occurs.

Vicarious liability

Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine stating that the actions of an employee are the same, in essence, as those of the employer. This standard only applies if the employee was performing his or her job duties at the time of the accident.

If, for example, an employer sends an employee to deliver a package or item to a location across the city and the employee gets into an accident on the way, the employer could be held liable. However, if the employee stops and grabs food or coffee on the way and causes a crash in that process, that employee would not be acting on behalf of the employer. Thus, the employer would probably not be at fault for the accident.

In addition, employers are usually not responsible for any malicious or willful acts an employee commits, such as purposefully hitting another person or vehicle, or for reckless negligence, such as driving while intoxicated.

If you would like to learn more about liability related to car accidents in South Carolina, contact a trusted personal injury attorney with The Rembert Law Firm.

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