Plaintiff Permitted to Proceed with Case Against Drunk Driver’s Employer

Recently, a state appellate court released an opinion in a motor vehicle accident personal injury case that raised an important issue that commonly comes up in Indiana personal injury cases, especially in the common scenario in which an insurance company is involved in defending the lawsuit. The case required the court to decide if an insurance company that wrote a policy for an employer could be liable for an employee’s drunk-driving accident.

In the end, the court held that the insurance policy, which applied to permissive users, did cover the employee’s conduct. Thus, the insurance company was liable for the plaintiff’s myriad injuries.

Case Facts

The plaintiff sustained injuries in a drunk driving accident. The drunk driver was operating a company vehicle when the accident occurred. The plaintiff was successful in a suit against the defendant, and was awarded damages of roughly $1.5 million. However, the defendant was not able to pay the damages award, and so the plaintiff filed a claim to hold the defendant’s employer responsible. Because the defendant’s employer had an insurance policy with uninsured motorist protection, the plaintiff argued that the insurance policy was on the hook for his damages.

The insurance policy provided coverage to “permissive drivers.” Thus, the parties disputed whether by engaging in drunk driving, the employee was no longer considered a permissive employee under the terms of the employer’s policy. The court ultimately concluded that the was still considered a permissive driver despite the fact that he was driving a company vehicle while intoxicated.

The court reasoned that the determination of whether a motorist is a permissive user is based more on the general grant of permission to use the vehicle and not so much on the particular manner in which the employee used the vehicle. Thus, in this case the court looked to the fact that the employee had very little restriction on how to use the vehicle. The insurance company argued that there was a restriction for all employees to refrain from consuming alcohol while on the job or while operating company vehicles; however, the court determined that very general prohibition did not affect the broader grant of permission for the employee to use the vehicle. Thus, the court determined that the employer’s insurance company was responsible for the plaintiff’s roughly $1.5 million award.

Have You Sustained an Injury in an Indiana Motor Vehicle Accident?

If you or your loved one has been injured in a recent Indiana car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. However, chances are that you will need to deal with at least one insurance company before you receive compensation. Insurance companies are notorious for denying valid claims or making low-ball offers in an attempt to dupe accident victims into settling their claims for far less than they may be worth. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call the dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse at 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.

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