Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing when an employer can be held liable when an employee causes a serious car accident on the way to or from work. Ultimately, the court concluded that an employer may be held liable in situations where the employer requires an employee to use the car on the day of the accident. The case is important for Maryland car accident victims because it illustrates the types of arguments employers may make when one of their employees causes an accident.
As a general rule, an employer is responsible for the negligent acts of an employee, if the act is during and within the scope of employment. The idea is that the employee is carrying out the business of the employer, so it is only fair to allow anyone injured as a result of the employee’s negligence to seek compensation not just from the employee, but also the employer.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was serious injured when he was struck by another car as a result of a collision caused by a county public defender (the “public defender”). While the county did not state that the public defender needed a have a car, practically speaking it was not possible for him to perform the functions of his job without a car. For example, the public defender had to attend various courthouses across the county, visit clients in prison, and investigate crime scenes.
One day, the public defender was driving home from work when he decided to stop at the post office. The post office was very close to the courthouse where his office was located. As he turned into the post office, he struck another vehicle. That vehicle was pushed into the plaintiff, who was walking on the sidewalk. On this day, the public defender did not use his car to drive anywhere for work; only to commute to and from work.
The plaintiff sought to hold the county liable for the injuries he sustained in the accident. The plaintiff argued that the public defender needed a car to carry out his job, albeit not necessarily on the day of the accident, and that the county should be liable because the public defender was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.
The court disagreed, explaining that, in order to impose vicarious liability on an employer, the plaintiff must establish that the car was being used in the course of employment on the day in question. By merely requiring an employee have a car, an employer will not automatically be liable. If, however, an employer officially requires the employee use a personal vehicle for work, or the employer derives some other benefit from the employee’s vehicle, liability may be appropriate.
Here, the court found that the employer was not liable. The court explained that the public defender did not need to use his car at all on the day of the accident, and had left work to head home when the accident occurred. The court explained that the plaintiff’s case fit under the “coming-and-going” doctrine, which establishes that an employer cannot be held liable for accidents that occur during an employee’s regular commute.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The experienced and dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of combined experience assisting Maryland injury victims obtain the compensation they deserve for the injuries they have sustained. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Finds Manufacturer Not Liable for Plaintiff’s Injuries Based on a Third-Party’s Misuse of the Product, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published July 3, 2018.
The Dangers of Fatigued Driving in Maryland, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published June 18, 2018.