Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a car accident case that will be of interest to South Florida car accident victims because it illustrates the limits of the doctrine of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that allows a plaintiff to hold a third party responsible for the negligent acts of another party. The classic example of vicarious liability is when an employee causes an accident while working for his employer, and the accident victim seeks to hold the employer liable for the employee’s negligence.
In some cases, if an employee negligently causes an accident while acting within the scope of his employment, anyone injured in that accident may seek compensation not just from the employee but also from the employer. However, the burden rests with the accident victim to prove that the relationship between the parties is sufficient to establish legal liability. Generally speaking, this means showing that the person who caused the accident was actually an employee and was acting within the scope of their employment. The case mentioned above illustrates how courts analyze these claims and which types of evidence courts may consider when determining if a person is an employee.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was involved in a car accident with a delivery driver who was working for the defendant. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the driver of the vehicle as well as the company that hired him.
The company denied liability, arguing that the driver was hired as an independent contractor and that he was not acting on the company’s behalf when the accident occurred. In support of this defense, the company provided the court with the contract between the company and the driver. The contract stated that the driver was to use his own judgment and discretion when making deliveries, and the company would not oversee his daily activities. The contract also stated that the driver was responsible for all of his own costs, including car insurance and maintenance. The company also provided tax records, which indicated that the driver was provided a 1099 (the IRS form used to document compensation to an independent contractor).
The plaintiff acknowledged the contract but argued that the driver was acting as an employee, rather than as an independent contractor, at the time of the accident. The plaintiff explained that the driver was wearing a uniform and name tag with the company’s logo on it at the time of the accident and was working “for” the company.
The court found in favor of the company, holding that the driver was not acting as an employee at the time of the accident. Thus, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed. The court explained that the company treated the driver as an independent contractor in almost every way, except that the driver wore a uniform and name tag. However, the court was persuaded by the company’s explanation that the company’s customers receiving deliveries required identification from delivery people, and the uniform and name tag were an efficient way of providing the necessary identification without changing the driver’s status as an independent contractor.
Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. At the South Florida personal injury law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we have extensive experience handling a wide range of personal injury matters for our clients, including those involving complex legal issues and multiple parties. We take the time to get to know each of our clients and their specific situation so that we can tailor our representation accordingly. To schedule a free consultation with a dedicated South Florida personal injury attorney, call 877-448-8585 today.
More Blog Posts:
Establishing Causation in South Florida Car Accidents, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published August 24, 2017.
Pre-Suit Requirements in Florida Personal Injury Cases Naming Government Defendants, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 7, 2017.