Who Is Liable in a Company Carpool Accident?
If you have been injured in a company carpool accident in Alabama, you might be wondering who you should sue – the employee who caused the accident or the employer they work for.
The short answer is – it depends. Depending on several factors, it could be the employee or the employer who can be held liable for your injuries.
Determining Liability in a Company Carpool Accident
Generally, in a company carpool accident, one of the following two legal principles can be applied in order to determine liability.
- Respondeat superior
- Coming and going rule
If the former principle is applicable, the employer can be held liable for the accident. If it is the latter, the employee can be held liable.
It is a Latin phrase that means ‘let the master answer’. The origin of the principle can be traced back to ancient Rome. Under the principle, an employer can be vicariously held responsible for the negligent or reckless actions of the people they employ.
The respondeat superior principle can be applied to a company carpool accident claim under the following circumstances.
- If the employer incentivized their employees to carpool – either by paying them a cash incentive, by reimbursing their fuel costs, or through any other means
- If the employer-provided a company-owned vehicle for carpooling
- If the employer rented or leased a vehicle (in their own name or in the company’s name) for the purpose of carpooling
- If the employer asked the employee (who caused the accident) to drive other employees to and from work and paid a bonus for their services or if they incentivized the employee in question through any other means
- If the employer asked the employee in question to run a work-related errand or a personal errand on their way to work or while they were returning home
In the aforementioned scenarios, the employer cannot claim that they do not bear any responsibility for the accident, since the employee in question caused the accident while they were working within the scope of their employment.
The Coming and Going Rule
Technically, the coming and going rule is not a legal principle in and of itself, but an exception to the respondeat superior principle. The rule states that an employer can only be held liable for the actions of employees who are on the job. In other words, if an employee causes an accident while they are coming to work or returning home, their employer cannot be held financially responsible for the resulting injuries and property damage.
For instance, an employer can claim exemption from liability under the coming and going rule if the employee who caused the accident chose to carpool with their colleagues of their own volition and used their own vehicle for transportation.
Importance of Legal Representation in an Alabama Company Carpool Accident Claim
Determining liability in a company carpool accident is a complicated task that requires the legal expertise of an attorney. Apart from determining who can be held liable, the attorney can also calculate the full extent of the tangible and intangible losses you suffered and maximize the value of your claim.
More importantly, only an experienced attorney can collect the evidence needed to establish the liability of the at-fault party (whether it is the employer or the employee). It is particularly important in Alabama, as it is one of the five states that still follow the doctrine of pure contributory negligence.
Under the doctrine, you do not have the right to demand compensatory damages from the at-fault party, if it is found that your own negligence or recklessness contributed to the accident – even to the smallest possible margin.
It is why your attorney not only needs to prove that the accident was caused as a result of the at-fault party’s negligence or recklessness but also needs to counter the allegations from the other side about your own negligence. So, you need to make sure you choose an attorney who is not only skilled and knowledgeable but also has sufficient experience in handling carpooling and ridesharing accident claims.
Experienced Company Carpool Accident Attorneys in Alabama
Company carpool accident claims can be extremely complex in nature and require the expertise of a skilled and accomplished personal injury attorney. At the law office of Frank M. Wilson, we have decades of experience in handling automobile accident claims – including carpooling and ridesharing accident claims.
Attorney Frank M. Wilson is one of the highest-rated personal injury litigators in Alabama and is a recipient of many industry honors and awards – including the AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell.
As a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, Frank M. Wilson is uniquely qualified to handle automobile accident claims and can get results that most others cannot.
To discuss your case with our firm, call us today at 334-420-2931 or contact us online and schedule a free consultation.
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