Possibly. An employer can be held liable when the negligence of its employee caused a car accident and the accident occurred in the course of the employee’s work. This is known as vicarious liability.
If the vehicle that caused a collision is owned by a corporate entity, the company might be held responsible for injuries sustained by other parties in the collision. Additionally, if an employee was “on the job,” the company can be held responsible for damages arising from an accident even if the car is owned by the employee, under the common law doctrine of respondeat superior (Pyne v. Witmer, 129 Ill. 2d 351 (Ill. 1989)). For the employer to be liable, the employee must have acted negligently, willfully or wantonly, and generally must have been acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.
The significance of a corporate entity’s involvement in a motor vehicle accident can substantially alter the value of a case. Unlike individual insurance policies which may have limited coverage amounts that won’t fully compensate victims, most corporate insurance policies are substantial and usually include several layers of coverage, which could theoretically be used to compensate an injured person or group.
What is Considered Outside the Scope of Employment?
It’s important to note that in most states, including Illinois, simply driving to and from a workplace is not considered to be “in the scope of employment.” So if the employee who caused the accident was on their way from their home to their job or vice versa at the time of the incident, their employer will generally not be held liable because this is considered to be on the employee’s own personal time. However, courts have recognized some exceptions to this rule when the employee has been en route to or from another place that their employer required them to be, such as a training or a conference:
“Generally, an employee traveling to or from work outside actual working hours is not in the scope of employment, but an exception exists for employees who are caused by their employers to travel away from a regular workplace or whose travel is at least partly for their employers' purposes rather than simply serving to convey the employees to or from a regular jobsite”
Pyne v. Witmer, 129 Ill. 2d at 356 (Ill. 1989).
Further complicating matters is when the employee is operating a vehicle within his scope of employment, but deviates from his route for personal reasons; for example, to stop at a restaurant or bar or do some personal errand. This is a somewhat hazy area of the law, and whether an employer is still vicariously liable for its employee’s actions often turns on how great the deviation and how far it takes the employee outside the scope of his work:
“An employee may combine personal business with the employer’s business at the time of negligence, yet the employer will not necessarily be relieved of liability on that account, and the fact that an employee is not immediately and single-mindedly pursuing the employer's business at the time of negligence but has deviated somewhat therefrom, or that the employee's conduct was not authorized, does not necessarily take the employee out of the scope of employment” (Id.).
Findings of liability in these cases are usually very case-specific and are often left to the trier of fact, such as a jury, to determine.
Get Legal Help now for Car Accidents Involving Corporate Owners or Company Employees
To determine if a corporate entity was responsible for your accident, it is important to have your case evaluated by an experienced car accident injury attorney who has an understanding of the laws applicable to employers in Illinois.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is experienced in representing people injured in accidents involving company cars and private vehicles driven by company workers. Our office represents injured people exclusively and has the know-how to maximize the value of your case. If your were injured in a company car accident, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your case to learn about your legal options.