Vicarious Liability in North Carolina Car Accident Cases

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In some car accident cases, it may not always be the actual driver of the car involved in the accident whom you want to file a claim against. There may be another party that is legally responsible for the acts of the driver against whom you would file a claim.

If the Driver Was on the Job, the Company May Need to Pay

The car with which you collided may have been driven by someone who was on the job at the time of the accident. For example, they may have been making a delivery or driving a corporate car. When someone is on the clock, they are not just acting in their name. They are acting in the name of the company that is paying their salary.

There is a theory of personal injury law called respondeat superior. This Latin term means “let the master answer.” In legal terms, it means that an employee is the agent of a company when they are working.

Any wrongful acts that they commit are considered to be the wrongful acts of the company for whom they are working. Any distinction between the employee and the company is legal fiction and does not exist. The two are considered to be one and the same.

Vicarious Liability Takes Place When the Acts Are Within the Scope of Employment

In order for the company to be held liable for the acts of their employee driver, the worker must have been on the job at the time of the injury. For example, if they are taking the company car on a personal errand, they are not performing an act on behalf of their employer. They may also not be working if they are on their way to or from work. The wrongful act must have been within the scope of their employment.

For instance, if the employee’s job was to drive, a car accident was within the scope of their employment. Any time that an employee is driving at the behest of their employer, then the employer is liable for the worker’s negligence. The employer will need to pay, even if the employee was extremely reckless or driving drunk at the time of the accident.

Injured Drivers Want Deeper Pockets to Sue

In reality, suing a company for your car accident injuries may be the best-case scenario for you. To be clear, the value of your injuries does not vary based on the party involved in your crash. On the contrary, your damages are your damages. What does change is the value of the insurance policy that the driver has to pay for your injuries.

Many individual drivers opt for bare-bones car insurance to save money on their monthly premiums. They may not have assets that are at risk if the policy limit does not cover all the damages. In that case, you are the person who has to turn to your own underinsured motorist coverage (assuming you have it) to make up for the shortfall.

A company will likely have a larger insurance policy to protect itself from further liability for your injuries. They are the ones on the hook for the full extent of your injuries. If they do not have enough insurance coverage to pay for your damages, you can go after corporate assets. That is the last thing that the company wants, so they will make sure to have adequate coverage.

For this reason, car accident settlements involving a corporate defendant are usually larger. In some cases, there may be multiple defendants, meaning that there are several policies against which you can file a claim.

Suing a Company Means Dealing With Their Attorneys

The flip side is that there may be corporate attorneys involved in your case. When the stakes are higher, companies will devote a great deal of attention to a claim because it will impact their business. They want to protect themselves from liability and their bottom line at all costs. When you have been involved in an accident with a company driver, you need an attorney who can match theirs and fight for your legal interests.

You may not always recover when a driver is working on behalf of another at the time of an accident. Some drivers may be independent contractors. For example, if the driver was making deliveries for Doordash or driving for Uber, you cannot sue the company itself for the accident.

However, Amazon delivery trucks are usually driven by employees of the company, and therefore, you can sue Amazon itself for the injuries that their drivers caused you. Even if the driver was an independent contractor, they might be required to have a large policy as a condition of their work for the company.

Call a Wilmington Car Accident Lawyer

When you have been injured in a car crash, experienced legal representation is a must. You can be assured that the insurance company has a plan to minimize your compensation that you will need to counter.

The aggressive attorneys at Horton & Mendez will learn who was responsible for your crash and will work to seek financial compensation. Call us today at (910) 668-8067 or reach out to us online to schedule your free initial consultation.


Will my car accident case reach a settlement?

Most car accident cases will eventually end in a settlement agreement. If there is a company involved, both the company and their insurance company can fear being on the wrong end of a large jury verdict.

What if the insurance company denies my claim?

You can file a lawsuit and have a jury decide whether the company should be held liable for your damages.

What if the corporate insurance policy is not enough to pay the damages?

You can go after the company’s accounts and assets if you get a judgment against them.

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