Is an Employer Liable for Injuries Caused by an Employee Driving a Work Truck?


June 18, 2013

If you are struck by a distracted driver who is rushing to a worksite, you might be able to pursue a legal claim against the driver if, for example, you are struck in a crosswalk while crossing with the “walk” signal.  However, the situation can be complicated if the driver lacks adequate insurance to cover your injuries.  We frequently hear from pedestrians, drivers and passengers who suffer injury when they are involved in a collision with an employee driving a work truck.  Because these trucks may substantially outweigh a small economy car, the occupants in the economy car can suffer life-changing injuries.

Fortunately, there are a number of legal theories that can often be utilized to seek compensation from the employer of the driver depending on your state law, as well as the specific facts and circumstances of your situation.  While a detailed analysis of this area of law is complex, we have provided a simplified overview of the potential theories of liability that may be available to seek compensation from an employer for the negligence of an employee.  Remember this summary is general in nature, and not intended to be legal advice.  The application of the law to your case requires a legal analysis of the specific facts in your situation.

Careless Hiring or Retention

Under Georgia law, an employer may be liable for negligent hiring and/or retention if the employer knew or should have known that an employee was not appropriate for the job or had a proclivity toward engaging in behavior relevant to the injury.  Generally, the employee must also establish a causal connection between the employee’s lack of fitness for the job and the resulting injury.

The way these legal standards might work in practice when an employee causes a car accident might be best understood by using a hypothetical example.  If the employer failed to investigate the employee’s driving record prior to hiring the employee knowing that the employee would be asked to drive to job sites in a company truck, this might constitute negligent hiring if the employee actually had a history of DUI convictions and/or traffic accidents.  The employee’s poor driving history would provide evidence supporting the contention that the employer “should have known” the employee was not an appropriate selection to drive a work truck between job sites.  Further, a clear nexus would exist between the employee’s lack of fitness (i.e. poor driving record) and injuries caused in a motor vehicle accident.

Similarly, if the employee was involved in accidents or received multiple moving violations for speeding or other unsafe driving practices during his time at the company, the failure to take the employee out of the work truck might constitute negligent supervision.  Cases against employers for negligent hiring or supervision require investigation and discovery of the personnel file and other hiring documents related to the employee that caused the collision. 

By contrast, the employer might be able to avoid liability for negligent supervision or hiring if the violation did not relate to driving.  For example, the employee might have a criminal record for domestic violence against a girlfriend or embezzlement from a prior employer, these acts would probably not justify a claim for negligent hiring or supervision based on the employee’s involvement in a car accident.  These types of prior misconduct have no causal connection to unsafe driving.  It is important to understand that these situations have been simplified and can turn on subtle differences in the facts so it is important to obtain legal advice from an experienced Georgia work truck accident attorney.

Respondeat Superior

The other legal doctrine frequently used to impose liability on an employer in these types of cases is respondeat superior, which translated literally means “let the employer answer.”  Essentially, this doctrine imposes vicarious liability on an employer for the acts of an employee committed in the “course and scope of employment.”  While the issue of whether an employee is acting within the course or scope of employment can be an extremely complex and fact sensitive question, it generally means that the employee was performing his job, acting for the benefit of the employer or engaged in company business.

The policy justification for this legal theory of liability is that the employer should bear the expense of negligence or misconduct by an employee as a cost of doing business.  The policy also creates an incentive for employers to exercise caution when hiring employees and to implement appropriate safety practices and supervisory procedures.

If you have been involved in a collision with someone driving a company truck or other work vehicle, our Georgia car crash lawyers at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including all smaller cities and rural areas throughout the state.  No matter where you are located our Georgia auto accident attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you.

Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.