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Vicarious liability and workplace car accidents

If you have been involved in a car accident at work, one thing you need to know about is the vicarious liability principle. Under it, your employer may be liable, whether or not you were negligent, if you got hurt in the crash.

The main reasons that courts turn to the principle of vicarious liability are:

  • The accident happened while you were actively on the job.
  • The accident happened "within the scope" of your terms of employment.
  • You were carrying out an activity when the accident occurred, and that activity was the reason the company hired you in the first place.
  • Based on what you were doing when the wreck took place, your employer was going to benefit from your actions.

As you can see, this is a bit more wide-reaching than people assume. You do not actually have to be "at work" or on the job site to qualify.

For instance, perhaps you work in a warehouse. You get shipments from other warehouses and you ship them out every day. Typically, another crew brings the shipments over and you just run the in-house operations to get them in the mail.

One morning, the second crew can't make the delivery. Your boss calls you and asks you to pick up the items on your way in for the day. While driving to that location, you get involved in an accident. You were not at work yet, but your employer still benefited from your actions and they were under the general scope of your employment.

If you suffer serious injuries, be sure you really know what rights you have.

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