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Employer Could Be Liable for Employee’s Car Accident Under Georgia Law

Many employees drive company vehicles either to and from work, or for specific company-related tasks. The question arises then, if an employee gets into a car accident with another driver while operating a company vehicle, is the employer liable for any resulting damages or injuries? Or, to put it another way, can the victim of the accident bring any claims for injuries against the company? The answer of course, depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the collision. If you have been the victim of a car accident due to the negligence of another person, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. To determine the extent of the value of your claim, and against whom you may bring the action, it is important that you contact an experienced injury attorney from the Atlanta area as soon as possible after the incident occurs.

In a recent case, Dougherty Equipment Company, Inc. v. Roper (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), an employee, Adam Garland, was driving a company van to work when he got into a car accident with Linda Roper’s vehicle. Roper brought an action against Dougherty, claiming that the company was “vicariously liable” for Garland’s conduct under a legal doctrine known as “respondeat superior.” Roper also alleged that Dougherty was liable for negligent entrustment and hiring of Garland. Among other things, the company moved for summary judgment for the vicarious liability claim, arguing that Garland was acting outside of the scope of his employment while he was driving to work. The company also claimed that the evidence was insufficient to support a negligent entrustment claim.

The trial court denied the company’s motion and the court of appeals granted an application for “interlocutory review.” Under Georgia law, when there is a car accident involving an employee driving an employer’s vehicle, the presumption is that the employee was acting in the course and scope of his or her employment at the time of the accident. To avoid liability, the employer would be required to rebut that presumption. Here, although Garland was driving the company van on the day the accident occurred, he had not yet started work and was only driving from his home to the company office to get his assignment.

The general law in Georgia is that an employee is deemed to be acting only for his or her own purposes while commuting to work, unless there is evidence that the person was handling a specific task for the company. Here, the court found that the trial court correctly concluded that Garland was driving the van in order to arrive to work on time and that he was not undertaking a specific duty assigned by his employer. Under these facts, the company would not be vicariously liable for Garland’s actions. As for the negligent entrustment claim, the court found that the company had knowledge of a series of serious driving infractions by Garland and therefore concluded that there is a question of fact on this issue for the jury to decide.

Many of these issues are complicated, and the question of liability is often driven by the specific facts of the case. An experienced injury attorney would be able to analyze the facts of your car accident case to give you a clear picture of your right to compensation for any suffering and losses.

Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of another’s negligent driving in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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