In Louisiana, determining liability in an auto accident can sometimes be a straightforward process. It is usually one driver or the other involved in the collision, but this can be complicated if one of the drivers was using a company vehicle. In such cases, the liable party may not have even been at the scene of the accident.
The state of Louisiana follows the principle of “vicarious liability.” Vicarious liability states that employers may be held responsible for the negligent acts of their employees if they were conducting company business.
So, if the employee was in a company car and on company business, then the employer may be held liable for the accident. But how does this work in practice? And do you need a personal injury attorney to help you through the process?
What Is a Company Car?
It may seem like an inane question, but it is important to consider “What is a company car?”
Most people assume that only a vehicle owned by the employer should be considered such a vehicle, and in fact, most people don’t even question the vehicle’s ownership unless there are business logos on the auto.
However, this question has real pertinence if the negligent driver owns the vehicle but was performing a task for their employer. For example, if an employee was driving to purchase supplies for the business in their own car, a jury may find that the employer was actually liable for an accident. A jury might consider the employee’s car a company vehicle if it is used often to shuttle company goods back and forth.
The key to determining if an employer is also responsible is if the employee was acting in the “course and scope of her employment.”
“Course and scope” has a long history of litigation to define the term. In short, it applies if the employee was performing tasks that were related to their employment. Louisiana courts have held employers liable for auto accidents that occurred while an employee was merely driving to a work-related function.
If You Are Running a Personal Errand
“Course and scope of her employment” would not apply if an employee was running a personal errand. Examples might include driving during a lunch break, taking a detour to stop by their house or child’s school, or picking up dry cleaning.
This exception may apply even if the accident occurred during normal working hours because the employee was not using the company vehicle for work duties.
Exceptions to Vicarious Liability
Like many legal principles, there are some cases in which the employee may be held exclusively or equally responsible for an auto accident, even if it occurred in the course of a work-related activity.
- If the employee is committing a criminal activity while causing an accident, that may release the employer from any liability. This may include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Many employees like taxi drivers or truck drivers must sign a contract that specifically relieves their employer of any accident liability.
If your employer provides you with a company vehicle for personal use, you should pay close attention to any indemnity exclusions. Many businesses require agreements that free them from liability while going to and from work or during non-business hours.
Trust the Jones Law Firm
If you have been involved in an accident that may involve a company vehicle, you may be in for a long, complicated process. To ensure you’ll receive compensation from the right parties — and a just amount, as well — you should talk to one of Louisiana’s finest personal injury law firms. The Jones Law Firm will help you get all of the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a consultation.