Third Party Corporate Liability In Car Crash Cases
In a previous post, we examined some common first party liability theories in car crash cases. Additionally, in many cases, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) isn’t the only responsible party for the victim’s damages.
Vicarious liability is important, because Florida has the second-highest number of uninsured drivers in the country. As a result, the tortfeasor may not have enough money to pay all the victim’s damages, so an alternative source of recovery is vital. Second, many companies are quick to put their own profits ahead of the safety of other people, and negligence lawsuits are usually the only way to change this behavior.
Mostly because of its extremely broad legal definition, respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) is probably the most common employer liability theory. It applies if the tortfeasor was an employee who was acting within the course and scope of employment at the time of the car crash.
In this context, an employee is not just someone who earns a regular paycheck. Instead, most negligence courts use the amount of control that an employer has over a worker to determine that worker’s legal status. This analysis includes control over hours worked, place of employment (e.g. this location or that location), the nature of the relationship, and the employer’s provision of any necessary tools or supplies.
Under this definition, independent contractors, interns, and even unpaid volunteers are probably “employees” for negligence purposes.
Similarly, the course and scope of employment is not just something like a delivery driver or long-haul trucker. Instead, anyone who is doing anything that benefits the boss in any way is acting within the course and scope of employment. This includes people who drive vehicles that bear the company logo, because the employer benefits from the advertising.
If respondeat superior does not apply, negligent hiring often does apply. In terms of car crashes, if an employer hires someone with a poor driving record and that person later causes a car crash, the employer may be responsible for damages. If the victim sustained a serious injury, this compensation includes money for tangible losses, such as medical bills, and intangible losses, such as emotional distress.
Dram Shop Liability
A “dram shop” is an old term for a bar or saloon. Under Florida law, these establishments, and other commercial alcohol providers like liquor stores and restaurants, are liable for damages in car crash cases if:
- The tortfeasor was under 21 or
- The business sold alcohol to a person over 21 who was “habitually addicted” to alcohol.
Strict liability applies if the person was under 21. It is not a defense if the person presented a fake ID or of s/he “looked” 21; similarly, it is not a defense if the person only bought packaged alcohol from a grocery store, because it is foreseeable that the tortfeasor would open the container on the way home.
To satisfy the “habitually addicted” prong, the victim must present evidence that the dram shop knew about the tortfeasor’s addiction.
Contact Aggressive Attorneys
Responsible third parties must be included in negligence lawsuits whenever possible. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.