Is the Company or the Driver Liable?
Anytime you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a New Jersey motorcycle accident, you can count on some issues and even confusion when it comes time to determine liability. If you have the even greater misfortune of being in an accident involving a commercial vehicle, these liability questions can become even more murky and contentious.
But to break it down to the simplest terms possible, if the driver of the commercial vehicle is clearly at fault, liability will typically fall to either that driver or to the company which owns the vehicle.
Here are a few key questions your motorcycle accident attorney must ask in order to determine who is liable. In other words, who we will be suing or settling with.
When Is the Company Liable for the Driver’s Conduct?
An employer is liable for the actions of its employees or contractors if the acts in question were unintentional and committed within the scope of employment, an idea I’ll return to shortly. The basic ideas behind this concept are:
First, certain types of incidents or conduct are bound to occur over the course of time that a company does business. So losses incurred as a result of this conduct are regarded as a cost of doing business.
Secondly, businesses are generally thought to have ‘deeper pockets,’ than their employees, and so are better positioned to purchase the insurance coverage necessary to offset losses incurred due to the actions of their employees or agents.
Did the Accident Take Place Within the Scope of the Driver’s Employment?
Determining whether an employee is acting within the scope of employment when an accident occurs is regarded by some as a difficult task. I disagree: as a qualified and competent New Jersey motorcycle accident attorney, I find that the answer to this question usually comes down to common sense.
- What was the intent of the employee?
- Where and when did the incident in question occur?
- What type of work was the employee hired to do, and did the accident take place while the employee or contractor was performing this work or while they were performing a task outside of this spectrum?
- What types of incidental tasks are assigned to the employee in order for them to fulfill their main duties?
- If they were pursuing a personal activity when the accident occurred, how long were they engaged in this activity?
If a van or truck driver hits you on your bike while they are making a delivery, the company would be liable for any harm, because the driver was within the scope of his employment when the accident happened.
If that same driver were to hit you while pulling out of the company parking lot as they were leaving work, a strong argument might be made that the company is not liable, because the driver was acting outside the scope of employment.
Call me at 888-292-5352 with any questions.
Was the Driver an Employee or a Contractor of the Company That Owns the Vehicle?
A company is not generally liable for actions committed by contractors. If the driver owns and insures the vehicle themself, does not receive benefits, and if the company does not withhold taxes from their paycheck, they are generally regarded as an independent contractor, and they would therefore be liable for damages to your bike and injuries rather than the company.
Did the Driver Cause the Accident Intentionally?
This is the nightmare scenario for everyone involved. If the driver hit you intentionally as a result of ‘road rage,’ for example, the company is not liable because these actions are (obviously) unrelated to the tasks required to carry out the actual purpose of the business.
What Happens When the Driver Is Not Liable
Once it is determined that the driver him or herself is not liable, there are still issues to be resolved. A larger company with more resources at their disposal may be inclined to fight any settlements or awards.
That’s why it’s so important for you to find a New Jersey motorcycle accident lawyer who will fight hard to protect your rights from the beginning to the end of our suit.
And that’s not all. Some other items that can affect liability include the fact that there could be a number of legal entities involved on the company side of the accident.
For example, they may hire outside contractors to perform fleet maintenance, and if it is determined that poor maintenance played a role in the accident, that company could be liable.
The owners of the cargo could be liable as well, or the company or entity that purchased the cargo and are its ultimate destination.
With all these potential complexities your most powerful ally is a determined and tenacious attorney, like New Jersey motorcycle accident attorney Lee Gaber.
If you’ve been in an accident with a commercial vehicle, you can’t afford to wait! Call the Cycle Attorney today at 888-292-5352 (888-cycle-law).