While Working on a Job an Employee Crashed Into My Car: Can I Hold His Company Liable?

Respondeat Superior is a legal concept that which requires an employer to be held liable for the negligent actions of an employee when that employee caused the negligent harm while acting within the course and scope of employment.  This is a well-established principle of law throughout New York, and even throughout the United States.  Thus, when an employee causes a car accident while at work, the employer will be liable for any damages resulting from the accident.  Essentially, the employer will step into the shoes of the employee causing the car accident.

It is also well-established under New York law that a motorist owes other prudent driver under similar circumstances so as to not cause preventable and foreseeable harm.  This applies to all drivers no matter what the reason for which he or she was using the vehicle; work or pleasure.  

Therefore, the basic standard of care applies to employees on the job and the doctrine of respondeat superior will govern a car crash if the employer expressly permitted the worker to use the vehicle, if the permission was implied, and when the company vehicle is used in furtherance of company business.  This last point is critical; the vehicle’s operation must be within the scope of business and the employee’s employment.  Having permission to use the vehicle, but using it for a joy ride after work, may not implicate the respondeat superior doctrine and create liability for an employer.

One of the better known court cases that fully address this issue is titled, Zeglen v. Minkiewicz.  The New York Court of Appeals applied the doctrine of respondeat superior in that case because of the following: the defendant Minkiewicz was driving when he crashed into the vehicle in which Zeglen was a passenger.  Adamson, another defendant, was driving the vehicle in which Zeglen was riding.  Adamson was employed by GE and was using the car for company business.  Zeglen is injured and sues Adamson, GE, and Minkiewicz.  Minkiewicz was found partly responsible for the crash.  Adamson was also found partly responsible. 

In accordance with the doctrine of respondeat superior, therefore, GE would be held liable for Adamson’s negligence.  Zeglen received a handsome recovery that was meant to compensate him for his injuries. 

Compensation serves to place an injured party in the position that which he or she would have been in had the other party not been negligent.  While monetary compensation cannot erase an injury, it can compensate for medical expenses, lost wages, lost future earning potential, pain and suffering, future medical needs, the costs of physical rehabilitation, and vocation training if the plaintiff needs to be trained in a different field due to the injury, just to name a few. 

The attorneys at Greenberg and Greenberg handle car accident cases throughout New York State, including Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, and Albany County.  Our legal team has earned a reputation for dedicated service to our clients injured in New York personal injury accidents.  Please contact us today to receive a free case evaluation by dialing locally to 518-828-3336 or call toll free at 877-469-9300.