It is not always obvious who may be responsible for an accident in which you may be involved. This is particularly true if you are involved in car accidents with employees, who are acting in the course of their employment or using company vehicles.
One Louisiana man was faced with the question of against whom to seek legal recourse after being involved in a car collision. The accident happened in a Dillard’s parking lot. A Dillard’s employee, who was driving a company vehicle, hit the man from Jefferson Parish, who was sitting in his parked car.
The Louisiana man claims that the employee negligently drove at a high rate of speed before crashing into his vehicle. The man apparently suffered physical injuries and pain and suffering, as well as property damage. As a result, he decided to file suit against the driver, who actually hit him and Dillard’s, since the employee was driving a company car at the time.
Louisiana law establishes that an employer, like Dillard’s, can be liable for its employee’s acts, even if it is not involved in a car accident. In fact, the employer and not the employee may be solely responsible.
An employer’s liability stems from the fact that an employer is responsible for directing its employee’s conduct, and also can reap profits from an employee’s labor. Essentially, an employer’s liability arises from equity. If an employer can direct and benefit from an employee, it is only fair that an employer can be held responsible for an employee’s negligent acts.
The specific theory on which a plaintiff can rely to sue an employer is known as respondeat superior. Pursuant to this theory, an employer is vicariously liable for the negligent acts of an employee that are committed within the course of employment. To successfully pursue a claim against an employee based on this theory, a plaintiff must show that the employee was acting within the scope of the employer’s instructions, and was not acting in his own capacity.
In car accidents, this distinction can be the crux of litigation. An employee will likely attempt to show that he was acting within his employment to shift liability to his employer. In contrast, an employer will want to highlight facts that the employee was acting outside of the scope of employment.
For example, here, Dillard’s may try to show that the employee was not using the vehicle in the course of his employment when the accident occurred.
Source: The Louisiana Record, “Dillard’s named in parking lot accident suit,” Kyle Barnett, Sept. 13, 2013