Starting from the Top: Why Lawyers Sue Professional Drivers AND Their Employers

Rafi Law Firm handles a lot of commercial motor vehicle cases. That includes cases against truckers, ambulance drivers, tow trucks, delivery drivers, and just about anyone else who was on the job when they caused an accident that injured our client. When we file these lawsuits, we name the drivers’ employers as a defendant in addition to the actual driver.

Holding the Company Responsible

Employers are responsible for their employees’ negligent driving based on the legal theory of “vicarious liability.” In the most basic terms, vicarious liability means that when an employee does something negligent or careless, the employer is negligent or careless.

In order to make a vicarious liability claim stick, plaintiffs (the people injured due to someone else’s carelessness) must be able to show that the driver was in the “scope” of their employment when they caused the crash. Sometimes this is easy to do, like when a driver is an employee who was driving the employer’s vehicle and was on the clock at the time of the crash. However, sometimes the analysis of “scope” is a more complicated legal question.

Following the Money

In a large majority of cases, settlements and verdicts are paid out by the defendants’ insurance companies. Drivers are covered by their employers’ insurance policies when they are in the scope of their employment, and in most cases the driver does not have any insurance to add to the company’s insurance. Plaintiffs can recover from the company’s insurance policy even if they only sue the driver, thanks to vicarious liability. Yet, most lawyers name both the company and the driver as defendants.

Why Lawyers Sue Both

First, good lawyers are always thinking ahead to what the jury might think when the case goes to trial. Even if a driver is clearly responsible for an accident, jurors tend to have more pity for them than for their employers. Most people would agree that companies are generally better equipped to withstand an order to pay a big verdict. Simply put, most jurors are more willing to hit companies with big verdicts than they are individual drivers, so naming the company increases the value of the case.

Second, lawsuits are made up of different types of claims. In motor vehicle crashes, the most common claim is negligent operation of a vehicle. Less common are the following claims, which can be made against companies when they are sued:

  • Negligent Hiring and Entrustment. These claims are based on the idea that the employer knew or should have known the employee was an unsafe driver, and that they should have never been (1) hired and (2) entrusted with a vehicle in the first place. Relevant evidence includes background checks, employment history, prior training, if and how interviews were conducted, history of citations, and history of accidents.
  • Negligent Training and Supervision. These claims are based on the idea that the crash never would have happened had the employer trained and supervised the employee properly. Relevant evidence includes employee handbooks, driving tests, written tests, ride-alongs, and training videos.
  • Negligent Retention. These claims are based on the idea that the employee should have been fired before the crash. Relevant evidence includes crashes, citations, and other errors or misconduct committed by the driver while working for the employer.

Jurors are more likely to provide larger verdicts when any of these claims can be proven, because it gives them a better understanding of why the crash should never have happened, and it shows that the driver was not the only person at fault.

At Rafi Law Firm, we have extensive experience winning cases against trucking companies and other employers. If you or a loved one were injured in a commercial motor vehicle accident, call us or click here for a free consultation.

2020-01-17T12:07:48-05:00