An Employer’s Liability When An Employee Causes a Car Accident In Greenville

Car accidents happen daily on South Carolina roads caused by drivers who are driving as part of their job duties for an employer.  In situations where these drivers’ negligent actions cause accidents where people are injured, the people they injure may be left wondering where to turn for compensation for their injuries.  This is especially so if the drivers have no insurance or the companies the drivers work for claim they have no responsibility for the drivers’ actions.  Fortunately, in some cases, a person suffering injuries in a Greenville car accident may be able to receive compensation from a company or person who is found to be an employer of a negligent driver if certain facts can be established.

 

Vicarious Liability

In certain circumstances, South Carolina law allows for an employer to be held legally responsible for an employee’s negligent acts that lead to a car accident in which others are injured through the legal doctrine of vicarious liability.  If a car accident occurs in the course of and within the scope of an employee’s job duties, the employer can be found liable for the accident, and be expected to meet the financial cost of compensating the injured victims.  In many cases, without the employer being found liable, an injured party may not be able to receive compensation for injuries sustained in an accident because the driver has no insurance and cannot afford to pay anything out of pocket.  While it may seem unfair to expect the employer to cover someone else’s negligence, the employer should be seen as having a duty to ensure that it hire competent drivers in order to protect other road users.

 

Vicarious liability is applicable when an employer knows or can be reasonably expected to know that its hiring of a specific person causes harm to the public.  The employer can be negligent in the way it hires, supervises or trains an employee, or when it gives the employee control over an object that could cause unreasonable risk of harm to others.  While cars do not generally pose an unreasonable risk, when they are entrusted to the wrong person, they can pose such a risk.  For example, if an employer is aware that a driver has a long record of convictions for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a driving record that includes car accidents while the driver was intoxicated, it can be argued that the employer is negligent in hiring the driver and allowing him to drive company cars on South Carolina roads.  In this case, if the driver is a true employee, it is likely that the employer would be found liable for any injuries caused if the driver causes a car accident.  It is important to note that if a court finds that the defendant driver was not at fault in causing an accident, then the plaintiff cannot then sue the employer based on vicarious liability for injuries sustained in the same accident.

 

Employee Status

A person’s status as an employee at the time of the accident is crucial to a case seeking to hold the employer liable for the actions of an employee.  Sometimes this determination is straightforward and not disputed.  If the employee is paid through a regular payroll, receives benefits, and all direction for his work from the employer, he is often considered an employee.  However, the analysis of the employer’s liability does not end there.  The court also has to decide whether the employee was involved in an activity that was a part of his employment at the time of the accident.  If the employee was running a personal errand, even in a company car, it is unlikely that the employer will share in the employee’s liability for a car accident occurring during this time.  The court looks at the task the employee was engaged in and determines if it was for the employer’s benefit.  Even if an employee’s errand took the employee off an employer’s task for 15 minutes only, during which time the accident happens, it may be enough to defeat a claim of vicarious liability.

 

Independent Contractors

Companies are not generally responsible for the negligent acts of independent contractors unless there are special circumstances.  This is because a company that contracts with an independent contractor does not exercise the same level of control over the independent contractor as it would an employee, and is therefore not in a position to prevent an independent contractor’s negligence.   Independent contractors can sometimes be other companies that are contracted to work on specific matters and are therefore likely to have insurance or otherwise be able to meet the costs of compensating a person injured in a car accident caused by their negligent actions.  In some cases however, individuals can be considered independent contractors by the court, and if the individual has no insurance, it may be difficult for the injured person to receive the compensation they need to meet his costs of recovery.

 

Let Us Help You Seek Compensation

If you suffered serious injuries in a car accident in Greenville, South Carolina, you may have several options in terms of seeking compensation from the other driver to cover your mounting medical costs and lost wages.  To discuss how you may file a claim against all legally responsible parties, call the determined Greenville car wreck attorneys at Bryan Ramey & Associates for a FREE consultation today.