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Can you sue an employer for an accident caused by its worker?

In the blink of an eye, a motor vehicle accident can leave you and your family reeling. The physical and emotion pain and suffering unfairly thrust upon you can make it difficult just to function on a day-to-day basis, and the financial ramifications of one of these wrecks can be devastating. Medical expenses and rehabilitation costs can quickly build, and your inability to work can strip you of your income. All of this taken together can be completely overwhelming, leaving you uncertain of your future. That’s why firms like ours are here to help.

One of the best ways to reclaim your life and ease your financial burdens is to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. But if your accident was caused by a commercial vehicle like a semi-truck or a box truck, or a public transit vehicle, then your case may be a little more complicated.

A look at vicarious liability

One of the first things that you should be aware of is vicarious liability. This is a recognized legal theory whereby employers can be held liable for the negligent actions of their employees. Why is this important? Simply put, a delivery truck driver in his individual capacity probably doesn’t have the resources to fully compensate you for your damages. By including his or her employer in a personal injury lawsuit, though, you have the opportunity to access a bigger pool of resources that is more capable of alleviating the full extent of the harm caused to you.

Defenses to vicarious liability

Vicarious liability isn’t automatically imposed on an employer. Instead, you’ll have to prove certain legal elements. For example, you’ll have to show that the driver who caused the accident was performing his job duties while he was on the clock and providing a benefit to his employer. That sounds easy enough, right?

  • Frolic and detour: Well, even if you do establish those facts in your case, the driver’s employer is likely going to raise some aggressive defenses. To start, it may try to claim that the driver was engaging in frolic or detour. Essentially, this means that the employer will argue that the driver was operating outside the scope of his employment at the time of the wreck. This might include running a personal errand, taking a route that wasn’t approved by the employer, or texting and driving.

  • Comparative fault: Another defense that is commonly seen in these kinds of cases is comparative fault. Under New York law, the amount of your recovery in a personal injury case can be reduced by the percentage of fault that is allocated to you. So, if you’re awarded $100,000 but are found to be 60% at fault, then you’ll only recover $40,000. As you can see, comparative fault can have a significant impact on the amount that an employer has to pay out, which is why they oftentimes attack the victim’s driving.

  • Third-party fault: Employers also might try to shift fault to a third-party who may or may not be involved in your personal injury claim. By taking this tactic, an employer isn’t necessarily trying to deny you the recover you seek. They simply try to pass the buck to another driver whom it thinks was more likely the cause of your injuries. Under these circumstances, you’ll want to make sure that you have everyone named in the case who should be in the case, otherwise you could waste a lot of time and effort, and even potentially miss out on the recovery you deserve.

Know how to navigate the intricacies of your case

Motor vehicle accident cases may seem pretty straightforward on their face, but the fact of the matter is that they can be quite complicated. Inadequately addressing the intricacies of your case can leave your recovery in jeopardy, though, which is why it might be best for you to work closely with a skilled legal advocate who can assist you in building the claim that you need and deserve.

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