Although the driver of the car involved in your accident is most frequently the defendant in auto accident litigation, in cases involving company-owned vehicles, other parties may be liable. Because your ability to recover compensation is often effectively limited by the insurance coverage available, identifying every plausibly liable party is crucial, especially in cases involving catastrophic injuries. When a company vehicle is involved in an accident, the company itself may be required to compensate you for your injuries.
There are several ways in which the owner of a business may be liable for injuries caused by one of its vehicles:
Respondeat superior — This principle means if the driver was an employee and was acting within the scope of that employment at the time of the accident, the employer may be liable for the results of the employee’s negligence, regardless of the employer’s own conduct. This type of liability has been limited for unauthorized passengers in government vehicles.
Its own negligence — If a business fails to properly maintain its vehicles or entrusts them to an employee or other individual it knew or should have known would pose a danger, that business may be liable directly for its own negligent conduct. This theory of liability may be workable even if the driver was not an employee or was acting outside the scope of employment.
Identifying all potentially liable parties is an important part of personal injury litigation. Not only does it create more sources of compensation, but it may also give your attorney more flexibility in negotiating a favorable settlement by allowing two or more parties or insurance companies to split the total compensation burden among themselves.