In our last blog entry, we touched on commercial vehicle accidents. It is obvious that the roads in greater San Antonio and Texas are becoming clogged with 18 wheelers and commercial vehicles. These vehicles are large rumbling instruments of injury especially if the driver does not follow federal regulations.
The first step in successfully prosecuting commercial vehicle accidents is to establish an employment relationship as opposed to an independent contractor relationship. Even if the trucker is an independent contractor, liability can still be bestowed on the company that owns the truck. In strictly looking at an employer-employee relationship, we can bestow liability on the employer if it can be shown that employee was acting within the scope of their employment. More often than not, this is not that heavy a burden to overcome.
Filling up an employer’s vehicle with gas or water is considered within the course of employment. We often see employees mix their personal business with their employment duties and in that case, such behavior is still within the realm of employment and the employer can be held liable for the employee’s negligence. Occasionally, Baseluos Law Firm will run into situations where the employee takes a ‘detour’ from official business. If the employee was acting for his own personal affairs, then he may be outside the scope of employment. However, if the employee is still somewhat acting on behalf of his employer or starts back on his normal course, then an argument can be made against the employer. Some courts look at the degree of deviation from normal course of employment, and sometimes an argument can be made that such deviations are minor and foreseeable and should not absolve the employer from negligence.
A trucking accident attorney must show the employee had the employer’s express or implied permission to use the vehicle at issue. A lot of Texas jurisdictions take the approach that it is presumed that a vehicle owned by an employer and driven by en employee was done in the furtherance of the employer’s business and the debate stops.
Baseluos Law Firm will often investigate whether the route taken by the employee is related to the business destination. This is a sure fire mark of employer liability even if the employee did not take the same exact route demanded by the employer. If an employee is negligent and causes injury by using a motor vehicle for personal use before or after business hours, it becomes tougher to hold the employer negligent. However, if the employee is furthering the business of his boss, liability can still be established even if the accident occurred outside work hours. Going to and from employment is normally not considered within the scope of employment. However, exceptions to this rule can occur if the employer is paying the worker’s mileage or transportation expenses. The same concept applies to the employee’s transit to and from restaurants .
Employers are generally not responsible for the intentional actions of employees such as an assault on another driver. If the employee driver is intoxicated, there may be a basis for imposing liability on the employer.
Baseluos Law Firm employs a variety of investigative techniques when prosecuting San Antonio commercial vehicle accidents including:
- Determining ownership of the vehicle and the purpose of use;
- Determining the ultimate destination of the employee, where the auto originated from, and the most direct route of travel;
- Determining any and all stops and purpose of each stop;
- Preparing a timeline of when the trip began and the various length of each section of the trip and its stops;
- Investigating the exact instructions given to the driver;
- Probing the employment history of the driver at fault including the length of time of their employment and all their supervisors;
- Obtaining key information on the accident itself including all retails related to the collision and all actions done on the date of accident;
- Investigating the exact duties of the driver at fault, their hours of employment, the employer’s awareness of the driver’s actions and use of the vehicle, and any financial reimbursement related to the vehicleAs you can see, much goes into successful prosecution of commercial vehicle accidents.
Establishing employer liability for an employee’s negligent driving and thereby invoking the higher coverage of a commercial policy is critical especially in the face of devastating injuries from trucking accidents.