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How an Injured Man Won His Case Against a Driver’s Employer Even Though the Driver Wasn’t Engaged in Employer Business at the Time of the Crash

When it comes to legal questions, a very common (and often very wise) answer you’ll get from a prudent lawyer is, “It depends.” That’s because many legal outcomes really do depend on the unique facts of a particular case. For example, in many instances, you cannot recover from a driver’s employer if the driver was using the employer’s vehicle but was dealing with personal matters at the time of the crash. But that’s not always true; sometimes you can recover. In short, don’t assume – seek out knowledgeable advice from a skilled San Mateo injury attorney about the options your case presents.

As an illustration of the “It depends” concept, take the case of R.M., who was hurt while riding as a passenger in a pickup truck that his father was driving. The father was driving down a rural, county-maintained road when the truck left the roadway and crashed down an embankment, rolling over. R.M. was not wearing a seatbelt and suffered serious injuries in the accident.

At the time of the accident, the road was undergoing a resurfacing project but, unbeknownst to the driver, the project had not been completed. The father’s employer owned the pickup truck, but the father was engaged in personal affairs, not company business, when the accident happened.

If you were in R.M.’s shoes, you might reasonably be unsure about how to proceed. Does the failure to wear a seatbelt mean you don’t have a case? Even if you do have a case, can you sue anyone other than just the driver (R.M.’s father)?

Getting knowledgeable and reliable answers to questions like these is where your skilled injury attorney comes in. Your attorney can help you accumulate the documentation, witnesses and other evidence you need for your case. Based upon the facts that are established by the proof you have, your attorney can help you identify all of the parties who might be liable to you and owe you compensation for the damages you suffered. For R.M., that meant suing Tulare County, the state Department of Transportation and the father’s employer.

The father’s employer asked to be dismissed from the case, but the Court of Appeal ruled that R.M. could proceed against the father’s employer. (Remember that, as stated above, the father was on personal, not employer, business at the time of the crash.) In many circumstances, the law may require that an employee be engaged in company business before the employer can be liable under the legal concept known as “respondeat superior.” However, that is not always true and it was not true in the case of R.M.’s lawsuit.

The appeals court decided that a reasonable jury could find that “the driver’s use of the truck for personal travel after work was dictated by the employer’s requirement.” When you have established that, as was shown in R.M.’s case, then that means that it was foreseeable for the truck to be involved in an injury accident, which in turn means that the employer can be vicariously liable under the respondeat superior concept. That was enough to let R.M.’s case against the employer go forward.

Finally, note that, no, your failure to wear a seatbelt does not prevent you from collecting damages in your auto accident injury case. That is just one factor among many that the jury may be entitled to consider.

Each case is unique. Each case requires a keen understanding of the facts and the law and how to use them to get results. The skilled San Mateo personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos have been helping injured people for many years by offering exactly that. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

California Auto Accident Cases Arising from Unusual Scenarios, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 27, 2018

Your Legal Options if You are Hurt by a Self-Driving Vehicle in an Accident in California, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 6, 2018

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