When Do Employers Have Liability in Car Accident Cases?

When examining potentially liable parties for your car accident, consider whether an employer could bear legal responsibility for damages. The other driver’s employer might not have caused your crash, but the laws of vicarious liability could mean the company has to pay for your losses anyway. In certain circumstances, you may have the right to file a claim with the employer’s insurance company – or even file a civil lawsuit against the employer itself for acts of negligence.

Understanding Vicarious Liability Laws

Vicarious liability refers to a situation in which one person is legally responsible for the actions of someone else. In a workplace context, vicarious liability means an employer is responsible for the actions and omissions of its employees. Stipulations to this rule exist, however. The at-fault person must be an employee of the company, not an independent contractor. Accidents with Uber or Lyft drivers, for example, will likely not result in the company being vicariously liable because the drivers are technically independent contractors.

An exception to the independent contractor rule exists in the commercial trucking industry. Changes to federal laws made companies liable for accidents involving their trucks and drivers regardless of employment status. This is to prevent trucking companies from escaping liability for wrecks. If you’re in an accident with a large truck because of the truck driver’s fault, the odds are that the trucking company (the driver’s employer or company in charge of the run) will be vicariously liable for your damages.

One must also show that the car accident took place within the course of the worker’s employment to hold the employer accountable. Employers will not be vicariously liable for the actions or injuries of employees who were off the clock at the time of the crash. For example, if you were in a collision with an on-duty flower truck driver, the flower company would be liable for your accident. If the delivery driver was off work and driving home at the time of the crash, however, the company would not be liable. The defendant would instead be the individual driver.

How to Pursue a Claim Against an Employer or Company

Texas is an “at-fault” or tort auto insurance state. This means that, after an accident, all parties will seek damage recovery through the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you were the driver who was not an employee at the time of the crash, you will file your claim with the at-fault driver’s employer (if the driver was on-duty or performing work-related tasks at the time of the accident). If you were the on-duty employee and you caused the accident, you can likely recover damages through a Texas workers’ compensation claim.

Treat a claim with an employer’s insurance company just like any other car accident claim. Gather information about the accident, including the name of the employee and the company he or she works for. Document the date, time, and location of the crash. Call 911 and report the incident if it caused injuries or property damage equaling more than $1,000. Go to the hospital right away and seek treatment for your injuries. Then, call the insurance company of the at-fault driver. The insurance company can settle your claim as you wait for an investigation of the accident to finish.

Contact an attorney after a car accident with an on-duty employee in Texas. A lawyer can help you determine vicarious liability, if applicable, and file a claim with the correct party or parties. A lawyer can also take care of your personal injury lawsuit against the driver, employer, and/or other party if someone else’s negligence caused your crash. Holding an employer liable could result in greater compensation for your damages.

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