Figuring out who to name as a defendant in an Indiana car accident case is an important step in any personal injury case. For example, employers may be liable for employees’ actions even in cases where the employer was seemingly not involved in the accident, as a recent case illustrates.
In that case, the plaintiff was evidently a passenger in a truck that was in a single-vehicle accident. At the time, the driver was driving back home after attending a family gathering. The plaintiff filed suit against the driver (the plaintiff’s father), the driver’s corporation, and an affiliated corporation that owned the vehicle. The defendant corporations claimed that they could not be held liable because the driver was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the crash.
According to the court’s opinion, the defendant corporations required the driver to be on call at all times—24 hours a day, seven days a week. The driver was required to immediately respond to calls for repairs and maintenance at the defendants’ farms, ranches, and dairies. The defendants had equipment that was operated 24 hours a day, and repairs had to be addressed immediately to avoid disruption of the farm and dairy operations. It was not clear whether the driver was required to use the company vehicle (which contained tools and parts for repairs) at all times so that he could quickly carry out repairs. The driver’s supervisor told him that he was not limited to using the vehicle for business purposes.
The court of appeals held that a jury could find that the driver was acting within the scope of his employment when the crash took place, based on the facts of this case. The court noted that this case was unique, because the driver was using his company truck for personal travel, but that personal use of the vehicle may have been required by his employer. Therefore, the court held that a jury could find the driver was acting within the scope of his employment.
Respondeat Superior refers to the vicarious liability of employers. Under a respondeat superior analysis, employers can be held liable for the wrongful acts of their employees. The idea is an employer can control its employees’ actions by requiring they follow certain procedures.
Under Indiana law, for an employer to be held liable, there must be an employer-employee relationship and the employee must be acting within the scope of the employment. Generally, acts initiated by the employee that the employee never intended to be in service of employment are not within the scope of employment. In contrast, acts that an employee does to further the employer’s interests, at least in part, are normally within the scope of employment.
Have You Been Injured in Indianapolis?
If you have been injured in an Indiana car accident, contact the injury attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse LLP. We are a nationally acclaimed personal injury law firm with a track record of success. Our extensive experience allows us to effectively serve our clients across all types of Indiana personal injury claims. We will seek the most favorable settlement possible in your case, but we are always prepared to go to trial. Call us at 888-532-7766 for a free case evaluation.
Indiana Car Accidents Occurring in Parking Lots and on Other Private Property, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, January 14, 2019
Federal Appellate Court Overseeing Northern and Southern District of Indiana Issues Opinion in Warehouse Injury Case, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, January 22, 2019