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Georgia Court Finds Driver Not Working in Scope of Employment At Time of Accident

Car accidents have the potential to cause serious, long-lasting injuries. The injured party is often entitled to recover damages for any pain, suffering, and losses sustained as a result of another driver’s negligence. And in certain cases, the plaintiff may recover from the other driver and possibly that person’s employer, if he or she was acting in the scope of employment at the time of the collision. Clearly, the circumstances surrounding a car accident of any kind will play a significant role in the ultimate outcome of any claim. The best way to ensure that you have the most effective strategy for your particular case is to reach out to an experienced injury attorney from the local Atlanta area. A local lawyer who focuses on auto accident claims would have in-depth knowledge of the state laws and how they will apply to your case.

In a recent case, Mastec North America, Inc. v. Sanford et al. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), the plaintiffs, Henry and Tina Sanford, brought a personal injury action (arising from a car accident) against Mastec North America, Inc. (“Mastec”), Direct TV, Inc., and the driver, Warnock. The plainitffs’ suit included allegations of negligence and gross negligence against Warnock and sought to recover damages from Mastec and Direct TV under the theory of respondeat superior. Mastec and Direct TV moved for summary judgment, arguing that Warnock was not acting within the course and scope of his employment when the accident occurred. The trial court denied their motion, and they appealed.

According to the facts, Warnock worked for Mastec as a field technician. He serviced Direct TV customers by visiting their homes to install and repair satellite TV equipment. At the time of the collision, Warnock was driving a van owned by Mastec. As part of their arrangement, Mastec allowed Warnock to deduct $40 per week from his paycheck for the privilege of driving the van to and from work each day. Under Georgia law, when an employee is driving a vehicle that belongs to the employer, there is a presumption that the employee was acting in the course and scope of employment. But an employer may overcome this presumption by offering uncontradicted evidence that the employee was not acting within the scope and course of employment.

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court and granted the summary judgment motion. The court reviewed the evidence and found that Mastec and Direct TV rebutted the presumption with testimony that Warnock was driving home from his last job at the time of the accident. The court found insufficient certain circumstantial evidence used to show that Warnock might not have been driving home at the time of the collision. The court also pointed out that Warnock was driving the van home for his own convenience and even paid his employer for this privilege. Furthermore, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that Warnock was performing a “special mission” within the scope of his employment. His last job was deemed to be his usual work and not considered a special mission.

The specific facts and circumstances surrounding this case, as well as Georgia law, certainly affected the court’s decision. Before you bring any car accident claim, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the extent of your right to compensation. Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling car accident cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of another person’s negligent driving in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404) 370-1000 to schedule a free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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