Is An Employer Responsible For A Car Accident Caused By An Employee During A Business Trip?
There are situations where an employer may be held legally responsible for an accident caused by an employee. For example, let’s say a local flower shop employs a delivery driver. While making a delivery, the driver runs a red light and slams into a minivan. Under Florida law, the owner of the flower shop can be held liable for the injuries sustained by the people inside the minivan.
In legal terms, this is called respondeat superior. The literal English translation of this Latin phrase is “let the master answer.” Essentially, if an employee’s negligence causes injury in the scope of their employment, the employer is responsible. The key phrase here is “in the scope of their employment.” Not every accident caused by an employee is legally the employer’s fault. The burden of proof is on the victim to show the employee was acting in the scope of employment at the time of the accident.
For example, if an employee is simply driving to or from work, they are generally not considered to be acting within the scope of their employment. So let’s say our delivery driver was simply taking his personal vehicle to the shop in the morning when he caused the accident. Under those facts, the employer is not responsible, as commuting time is not within the scope of employment.
But what if the employee is on a business trip where he is required to work at a remote site? The Florida Second District Court of Appeal recently confronted such a case. In Peterson v. Cisco Systems, Inc., the plaintiff was involved in a car accident allegedly caused by an employee of the defendant. The employee normally worked in Virginia, but the defendant assigned him to work temporarily at a customer site in Tampa. The defendant paid for the employee’s hotel and rental car. The employee drove that rental car from his hotel room to the job site when the accident took place.
The plaintiff argued that under these circumstances respondeat superior should apply. The Second District disagreed. Upholding a trial court’s earlier decision dismissing the case, the appellate court said there was no Florida case law supporting the proposition that an employer is liable for “any” negligent conduct committed by an employee during a business trip. As far as the court was concerned, this was no different than any other “morning commute,” which is normally not within the scope of employment for purposes of personal injury law.
Speak with a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Determining an employer’s potential liability for an accident caused by an employee is just one of many complex issues that may need to be addressed in the context of a personal injury case. An experienced Deerfield Beach car accident attorney can review your case and advise you on the best course of action when it comes to seeking compensation for your injuries. Contact Leifer & Ramirez today to schedule a free initial consultation.