In some circumstances, drivers operating company vehicles can cause more accidents and injuries by behaving negligently on the road. Take the case of what happened to one victim in 2012, for example: he was struck once by a van while making a U-turn, and a second time by a pickup being driven by an employee of a local company. He sustained back and neck injuries, severe fractures along his vertebrae and spinal cord, a collapsed lung, lacerated spleen, rib fractures, and a traumatic brain injury. As a result of the accident, he is permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
In this case, although the defense alleged that contributory negligence was in-part the cause of the victim’s injuries because he was not wearing a seatbelt, this month, the jury ultimately decided that the company was at fault for the accident based on negligence and gross negligence for failing to enforce proper safety protocols (specifically, maintaining a safe distance between vehicles which led to the accident), and awarded the victim $67 million.
The circumstances of this case are actually not unique. “Negligent entrustment” is a term often used to describe this phenomenon, whereby there are serious liability issues associated with companies and organizations that employ or allow their employees to drive company-owned vehicles. Companies can be held liable when those employees drive particularly carelessly, potentially placing the general public in danger, because they, as individual drivers, may not feel as personally liable when they are driving a company vehicle versus their own vehicle.
If a driver is proven responsible for any injuries caused while driving a company vehicle, the company can be charged with negligent entrustment, especially if the injuries were preventable and could be traced back to company policies that were not in place at the time of the accident. Some of the triggers include:
- Hiring incompetent drivers, while;
- Being aware of their incompetency, and;
- Providing them with permission to drive the vehicle, when;
- At the time of the accident, the vehicle was being used for company purposes, on company time.
Any company that hires drivers is always at risk of this, especially if the employees were not screened properly or if there were telltale signs that they were irresponsible during the screening process. By not taking precautions, companies can be held liable for personal, property, and even punitive damages. Even if the driver was entirely responsible for the negligence, as in this case, because there were no protocols in place that mandated a safe driving distance, for example, the company was charged as well. Companies have to make sure that they not only do proper background checks in selecting drivers, but that they:
- Have written vehicle policies in place;
- Evaluate drivers from time-to-time; and
- Provide some training for drivers, especially if they are driving particular commercial vehicles that require certain skills.
Auto Accident Attorneys in Pennsylvania
If you or someone you know may have been injured, we will work to ensure that you receive the compensation that you are entitled to. The experienced team at Solnick & Associates LLC can help you – contact us today for a free initial consultation.