Employer Liability Resulting From Motor Vehicle Accidents

Where the person who causes a motor vehicle accident is acting within the course and scope of employment, or is driving a company vehicle, there is potential for recovery of damages not only against the negligent driver, but also against the employer.

Owner Liability

A state's laws of owner liability will apply within the context of employment, and it may thereby be possible to hold an employer liable for injuries caused by an employee who is driving a work vehicle.

Negligent Hiring and Retention

When hiring an employee who will be conducting motor vehicles while on the job, employers should exercise due care to hire employees who are sufficiently skilled at driving to conduct those vehicles in a safe and appropriate manner.

This will often entail checking a prospective employee's driving record, and making sure that the employee has a valid driver's license with all appropriate endorsements.

After a driver has been hired, if the employer learns information about the driver's ability to conduct a vehicle (such as the driver's accumulation of tickets for moving violations), or if the driver's conduct raises safety concerns, the employer may have a duty to suspend the employee's driving duties until the safety concerns have been resolved.

Negligent Supervision

Where an employer has an obligation to supervise an employee, yet fails to provide adequate supervision, the employer can potentially be held liable for that failure. Although it may be difficult to show a duty to supervise within the context of a motor vehicle accident, there may be circumstances upon which a claim of negligent supervision can be raised against an employer.

Vicarious Liability

Employers can typically be held jointly and severally liable for the negligent acts of their employees, committed during the course and scope of employment, under the doctrine of respondeat superior (a Latin term meaning "a superior must answer"). Under this doctrine, a master (or employer) is required to answer for certain acts of his servant (employee), and may be responsible for the legal consequences of the employee's negligent acts.

Where the employer is a governmental entity, sovereign immunity may apply.

Copyright © 2006 Aaron Larson, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was first published on Feb 1, 2006, and was last reviewed or amended on Sep 10, 2014.