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Is an Employer Liable for an Employee’s Car Accident in Florida?

When an employee experiences a car accident while on the job, the circumstances determine who is responsible for the damages. At Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon, our Pensacola, Florida auto accident attorneys can help you navigate the legal rules and secure recovery for your losses after an accident.

Call (850) 444-4878 or reach us online today for a free consultation.

Why Does Responsibility Matter if an Employee Has a Car Accident While Working?

As an insured driver, it might not matter to you who pays for your damages. Under the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, each driver can file a claim with their own insurance company to recover their losses after an accident. If your insurance company covers your costs, it receives subrogation rights against the at-fault party. If your policy covers your damages, the insurance companies will work out who will pay without much involvement from you.

Additionally, you have the option to file a lawsuit to recover your additional costs. Ordinarily, you would sue the at-fault driver. But if the car accident happened while the driver was working, you might also be able to sue their employer. Finding all the liable parties is one important step your personal injury attorney will take to ensure your maximum recovery.

When Is an Employer Responsible for a Car Accident at Work?

You may be wondering, can an employer make an employee pay for an accident? If it’s a situation where the employee is injured and looking for compensation, the answer to that question may be no. When an employee is injured while working, they typically file a workers’ compensation claim. Most Florida employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance that will pay the expenses without regard to fault.

However, if an employee injures a third party while working, the employer may still bear responsibility. An injured party can hold an employer legally responsible for a car accident caused by their employee’s negligence using three approaches: vicarious liability; negligent hiring, retention, and supervision; or negligent training and supervision.

Vicarious Liability: Within the Scope and Course of Employment

The doctrine of vicarious liability is also known as respondeat superior. Even when an employer is without fault, it may be responsible for damages caused by its employees. An employer is vicariously liable for a worker’s negligent acts if performed within the scope and course of their employment.

To recover damages from an employer under this theory, you must show that the accident occurred while the employee was:

  • Performing services that they were employed to perform; or
  • Acting at least in part because of a desire to serve the employer; and
  • Doing something reasonably incidental to the employment or reasonably foreseeable or expected of persons similarly employed.

It is easy to identify an employee if they are in a company-branded vehicle or wearing a uniform. However, vicarious liability does not apply if the employee was acting outside the scope and course of their employment. Vicarious liability does not apply if the employee was coming or going from work or on a frolic—a major departure from the scope of employment undertaken for the employee’s own benefit.

Negligent Hiring, Retention, and Supervision

The doctrine of negligent hiring and retention holds an employer responsible for failing to recognize that an employee is unfit for the job. Negligent supervision is the same cause of action as negligent retention. Unlike vicarious liability, an employer is directly responsible for the results of negligently hiring or retaining an unfit employee.

Whether you can claim negligent hiring or retention depends on several things. Negligent hiring happens when the employer knew or should have known of the employee’s unfitness before hiring the employee. The question of liability generally centers on the adequacy of the employer’s pre-employment research into the employee’s background. An employer might be responsible for negligent hiring if it fails to check the driving record of a new employee.

On the other hand, negligent retention or supervision happens when an employer becomes aware (or should have become aware) of difficulties with an employee that suggest his unfitness during employment. It is negligence if the employer fails to take appropriate action, like investigating, dismissing, or reassigning the unfit employee. Negligent retention could happen if an employer receives notice of a new accident on an employee’s record and takes no action.

Negligent Training

Similar to negligent hiring and retention, a claim of negligent training holds an employer responsible for its employee management and the risks involved.

To succeed on a negligent training claim, you must allege that: 

  • An employer’s failure to train an employee adequately caused your injury; and
  • The nature of the employment put you in a “zone of risk” that gave the employer a duty to protect you.

When an employee goes on the road in a company vehicle, it is reasonably foreseeable that there might be a collision with a third party. Thus, other drivers are foreseeably in the “zone of risk” by the nature of their employment. The employer must protect them by training their employees appropriately.

Negligent training means that the employer was negligent in implementing or operating a training program. A company must ordinarily provide driver safety training before sending an employee on the road.

Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon: We Have the Answers

After work-related car accidents, you may wonder who is responsible. And if an employee hits you while working, you might wonder, Is an employer liable for an employee’s car accident?

There are a variety of laws that control who pays for the damages after an accident involving an employee. Whether a third party can hold an employer accountable for its employee’s driving depends on the circumstances surrounding the crash. If the employee was acting within the scope of their employment, the employer might be vicariously liable for the employee’s negligent driving. If the employer knew or should have known that the employee was unfit to drive on the job, they may be directly liable for negligent hiring, retention, or supervision. When the employer acted negligently with regards to training the employee, they may be liable for negligent training.

No matter which theory you use, an employer may have a responsibility for the negligent acts of its employees. When you call our experienced personal injury attorneys, we will help you hold the responsible party accountable for your losses.

Contact us online or call (850) 444-4878 today for a free, no-obligation consultation.