Court Determines Employee’s Use of Company Car Was Permissive in Recent DUI Accident Case

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important issue that frequently arises in Maryland car accident cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether an employee who caused an accident injuring the plaintiff was a “permissive user” under his employer’s insurance policy. Finding that the employee was a permissive user, the insurance company will be required to satisfy the judgment against the employee.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident that occurred when the defendant rear-ended his vehicle while he was stopped at a red light. The defendant later admitted to having had a few drinks and being intoxicated. As it turns out, the defendant, who worked for a railroad company, was not from the area, and was there on business. The vehicle that the defendant was driving at the time of the accident was a company car.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, which resulted in a nearly $1.5 million verdict. However, after 30 days of not receiving payment, the plaintiff filed this case against the insurance company that wrote the policy for the railroad company that employed the defendant. The plaintiff argued that the defendant was covered under that policy and, therefore, the insurance company was on the hook for the $1.5 million verdict.

The insurance company argued that the defendant was not covered under the company policy because the defendant was not a “permissive user.” Specifically, the insurance company claimed that the defendant was not a permissive user because he had been drinking at the time of the accident, and that the railroad company had a specific rule prohibiting employees from drinking while on the job.

The court disagreed, and found that the defendant was a permissive user under the terms of the insurance policy. The court explained that the focus of its inquiry was properly on whether the defendant was permitted to operate the vehicle in general terms. Thus, the court acknowledged that while there were strict policies regarding the vehicle’s use while the employee was at home, the vehicle was the defendant’s sole means of transportation while he was away on business and that during that time he was given “unfettered permission” to use the car.

The court held that the fact that the defendant’s use of the vehicle violated a company policy did not negate the broad permission the defendant had to use the car while away on business. Thus, the court held that the insurance company was responsible for the verdict against the defendant.

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. However, dealing with insurance companies in the wake of a serious car accident can be frustrating, especially for those unfamiliar with the process. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have been helping Maryland accident victims obtain compensation for their injuries for decades, and provide accident victims with a free consultation to discuss their case. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Finds that Car Dealership’s Insurance Policy Did Not Cover Customers on a Test-Drive, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published August 7, 2018.

Appellate Court Discusses Employer Liability in Recent Pedestrian Accident, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published July 17, 2018.


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