In many instances, an at-fault driver or another person who injures you was working for someone else. That circumstance raises the potential of the company’s liability for your injury claim. The ability to pursue the company offers the important advantage of reaching a party with the insurance or other resources to pay on your claim. Florida law offers grounds for liability for company injuries.
Under the principle of “respondeat superior,” companies must answer in liability for injuries you sustain at the hands of their employees. This vicarious liability arises regardless of the employer’s own use of care or even lack of knowledge of the incident.
Generally, whether the negligent actor was an employee or an independent contractor is key in your prospects of holding the company vicariously liable. Companies generally do not face responsibility for the negligence of independent contractors. Below, we’ll explain some exceptions to that general rule.
Ironically, the right of the company you’re suing to control the negligent actor’s work affords the rationale for respondeat superior. Whether and the extent to which the company controls the actor distinguishes an employee from an independent contractor.
To prove the requisite right of control necessary to establish the employer-employee relationship, you are not constrained by the company’s merely labeling the negligent actor as an “independent contractor” rather than an employee. Instead, a South Florida Injury Lawyer looks to factors such as:
- The company trained the employee and furnished the tools and equipment for the work
- The employee had assigned tasks, hours and work locations
- The employee did not have the independent right to select helpers
- The company exercised the right to control the manner in which the work was performed
- The company set dress codes and other policies for the employee to follow
That the actor received an hourly wage or salary may support a company’s liability for an injury claim. To that end, we seek to show that the actor(s) were issued a W-2 form rather than a Form 1099 typically used for independent contractors. Other economic evidence of the employer-employee relationship comes from whether the negligent actor had other jobs or opportunities simultaneous with those provided by the company.
Course and Scope of Employment
Once you show an employer-employee relationship, you must prove that the employee committed the tort while in the course and scope of employment. This normally means that the employee must have been advancing or promoting the company’s interests or business. With regard to car accidents, at-fault drivers can create liability for their companies when:
- Delivering products
- Transporting patients, customers or passengers
- Driving between the headquarters or office and a job site or between job sites
In pursuing your case, we examine the crash report to determine whether the company owned the vehicle driven by the at-fault driver. Proof of a company-owned vehicle may come from the registration information or even signage on the car.
A company might not escape responsibility merely because the employee used his or her own car. Note that you generally do not have a vicarious liability claim for your injuries if the negligent driver was commuting between home and work. Similarly, respondeat superior may not apply if the negligent driver was running personal errands or driving in a grossly reckless manner, such as by driving under the influence of alcohol or other impairing substances.
Liability for Injuries Due to the Company’s Own Negligence
The circumstances of your case may support and even necessitate that you resort to theories beyond vicarious liability. A company can be liable for injuries caused by its own negligent or tortious acts, as well as the negligence of its employees and agents. Often, this basis comes into play when the employee acted outside of the course and scope of employment. Victims of employees whose actions escape vicarious liability may suffer from assaults, batteries, other intentional torts, and other acts beyond mere negligence.
Also, the acts of employees may rise to the level of supporting punitive damages. However, Florida law does not permit you to recover punitive damages from a company solely upon the basis of vicarious liability. Instead, you need proof that the company participated, condoned, approved, or ratified the conduct that supports punitive damages.
A South Florida Injury Lawyer may pursue negligent hiring, supervision, and retention claims against companies. In a negligent hiring claim, you show that the company hired an unfit or unqualified or incompetent employee and that the company knew or should have known of the employee’s lack of qualifications.
Negligent hiring suits often address cases where the employee committed an intentional tort or acted maliciously. In those instances, vicarious liability normally does not apply because the willful or malicious action falls outside of the scope and course of the employer. The basis for negligent hiring cases lies in the company’s allowing the wrongdoing employee to be in the workplace or business setting.
Proving that the employer should have foreseen or known about the unfitness requires evidence that the employer did not conduct an adequate background check. Under Section 768.096 of the Florida Statutes, an employer enjoys a presumption that it did not negligently hire an employee upon taking specific actions in checking an applicant’s background. These include, among other things:
- Applications that ask about convictions
- A criminal record from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- Reasonable attempts to obtain references from prior employers
In the car accident context, negligent hiring may involve selecting employees with traffic violations, including speeding, impaired driving, and other moving offenses. Related to negligent hiring that causes injuries in traffic cases is the principle of negligent entrustment. That is, you sue a car owner who allowed an unqualified or dangerous driver to use the vehicle at the time of your injuries.
Liability for Company Injuries Caused By An Independent Contractor
The fact that an independent contractor caused your injuries doesn’t necessarily shield the company from your claim. Companies can be held vicariously liable for the negligence or other wrongful actions of the independent contractor when the contractor is engaged in an ultrahazardous activity such as transporting explosive or hazardous materials or where the company has a non-delegable duty. Negligently selecting independent contractors or entrusting them with vehicles can also subject companies to liability for injuries caused by independent contractors.
Get Help Pursuing a Company’s Liability for Injury Claim
With the help of a South Florida Injury Lawyer, you can get the compensation you need for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages or earning capacity. Our team will identify those parties who bear responsibility for causing your injuries.