Employer Liability in Virginia Motor Vehicle Accidents

After a Virginia motor vehicle accident, those who were injured in the collision can pursue a claim for compensation against the parties whom they believe were responsible for causing the accident. In almost all cases, Virginia car accident lawsuits are filed against another motorist and are defended by the motorist’s insurance company. However, Virginia accident victims should not assume that the only liable party is the other driver; it may be that the driver’s employer is also responsible for any injuries.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a Virginia accident victim can pursue a claim for compensation against a negligent motorist’s employer. To establish such a claim, a plaintiff must show that 1.) there was a “master and servant” relationship between the motorist and the employer, 2.) that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and 3.) the employee was in the process of carrying out his employer’s business. A recent state appellate decision illustrates the type of scenario where employer liability may be appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured while he was riding as a passenger in a pick-up truck that was being driven by his father. The accident was allegedly the plaintiff’s father’s fault and occurred while the two were driving to a family reunion. The truck that the plaintiff’s father was driving was provided by his employer, the defendant.

Evidently, the plaintiff’s father was a maintenance worker for several of the properties owned by the defendant. He worked six days a week, but was always on call to attend to whatever maintenance issues arose. The defendant allowed the plaintiff’s father to use the vehicle for personal use because the defendant wanted him to be able to respond to any maintenance emergency quickly. The defendant kept a toolbox in the truck in the event he was called while out on private business.

The court concluded that the plaintiff’s father employer could be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries and permitted the case to proceed to trial where a jury would make the ultimate determination. The court began by explaining that an employee who causes an accident while using a company car for private business will not typically result in the employer being liable for any resulting injuries. However, here, the plaintiff’s father was always on call and expected to respond to any maintenance emergency as quickly as possible. The court noted that the employer allowed, and seemingly expected, the plaintiff’s father to use the vehicle for personal use so he could more quickly respond. Thus, under these facts, the court determined that the plaintiff’s father was acting with the scope of his employment.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from one or more parties. Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the extent of your injuries, you may be able to obtain damages for your past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and for any emotional pain and suffering you have endured. To learn more, call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation today.

See More Blog Posts:

Landowner Determined Not to Be Liable for Accident Caused by Untrimmed Foliage, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, November 29, 2018.

Court Determines Plaintiff’s Misuse of Product Precludes Subsequent Product Liability Lawsuit, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, December 11, 2018