After a car accident, it’s important to identify everyone who caused or is financially responsible for your injuries. A missed claim may result in lost compensation, unpaid medical bills, and unnecessary financial hardship. Recently the Texas Supreme Court held that some employers are liable for accidents their employees cause while carpooling.
Keep reading to learn more about this new development.
When Is an Employer Responsible for Its Employees’ Carelessness?
Texas law sometimes holds an employer responsible for its employees’ actions. Called a theory of “vicarious liability” or “respondeat superior,” these rules can make an employer responsible for your injuries when its employee was acting on its behalf or doing something for the company’s benefit.
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Typically, a victim must show that the at-fault driver was an employee, not an independent contractor, and the crash or negligent activity was within the course and scope of their employment. However, there are some limits to this rule.
“Typically, a victim must show that the at-fault driver was an employee, not an independent contractor, and the crash or negligent activity was within the course and scope of their employment.”
For example, employers usually do not have to pay damages when their employees cause injuries during their commute to or from work, even though their commute benefits the employer. An employer may still be liable if the employee is driving a company vehicle or running an after-hours errand on the company’s behalf. A 2018 Texas Supreme Court decision, Painter v. Amerimex Drilling I, Ltd., expanded these exceptions to the “coming and going” rule, making employers responsible for carpool accidents under some circumstances.
When Texas Employers Offer Carpool Incentives, They May Be Liable for Accidents During a Commute
In Painter, victims were seriously injured during their evening commute. One of the drivers was a driller employed by Amerimex. The company paid him $50.00 per day to transport his team from employer-sponsored housing to-and-from their work site in his personal vehicle. After the crash, the victims and their families sued Amerimex under a theory of vicarious liability.
The company argued that they were not financially responsible for the families’ damages since they did not require employees to carpool and did not order them to go directly to the bunkhouse before and after work. However, the Texas Supreme Court disagreed with these arguments.
Instead, the justices focused on the fact that:
- The driver was compensated for his carpooling services
- The employer benefitted from the carpooling, since it ensured the team’s timely arrival at the worksite
- The driller and his team considered his driving to be part of his regular job duties
While the court acknowledged that not every carpool creates vicarious liability, they found that Amerimex’s incentives and policies sufficiently linked the driver’s actions to his employer. Notably, Amerimex continues to dispute this case and litigation is still ongoing.
3 Things Every Carpool Wreck Victim Should Know
Carpooling and carpool incentives are increasingly popular in Texas and beyond. While every crash is different and requires an individual analysis, there are several basic concepts all victims need to know.
- You may have claims against the negligent driver, their employer, and with your own personal auto insurance company
- The driver’s employer probably won’t volunteer information about carpool incentives or compensation that may create vicarious liability
- You need to act quickly since Texas law imposes strict limitations on when you can file a vicarious liability claim
If you were injured by a carpool driver, you should consult with an experienced Texas injury lawyer. To request a free consultation, contact Crosley Law today.
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Crosley Law: We Demand Justice for Carpool and Other Car Accident Victims
Crosley Law helps crash victims and their families recover from their injuries and rebuild. We’ve built a reputation for aggressive strategies, detailed investigations, and cutting-edge trial presentations. If you’d like to learn more about our approach, request your free consultation by completing our online form or calling us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000.
Painter v. Amerimex Drilling I, Ltd., __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. 2018). Retrieved from https://law.justia.com/cases/texas/supreme-court/2018/16-0120.html
Texas Supreme Court (n.d.). CASE: 16-0120. Retrieved from http://www.search.txcourts.gov/Case.aspx?cn=16-0120&coa=cossup
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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