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Claims Against Company Drivers in California

Trucks Claims against company drivers in California are more frequent than one might think. When an auto accident occurs, it often involves a person driving a motor vehicle such as a commercial truck that is owned by another person or business. In these cases, it is important for an attorney to determine if the person or company that owns the vehicle (e.g. car, truck, van, taxi, chauffeur, limo, etc.) can be held liable for any damages caused by the accident including personal injuries. The starting point for the liability analysis on these types of claims is California Vehicle Code section 17150, which states that the owner of the vehicle is liable for any damages caused by that vehicle by any person operating the vehicle “in the business of the owner or otherwise” using the vehicle with the express or implied permission of the owner. In other words, an employer can be directly liable for the negligence or wrongdoing of their employee or agent if that representative was acting on behalf of and at the direction of their boss. This is what is known in the law as “respondeat superior” liability or “vicarious liability.” If this can be shown, the business for which the agent is acting at the time of the crash would be held responsible. Sometimes, however, there are arguments that the driver was not acting with the permission of the owner and then, usually one of two theories can be analyzed as follows:

Negligent Entrustment of Vehicle by Owner

The owner may be held responsible if it can be shown that the owner gave the vehicle to the operator in a defective condition or loaned the car or truck to an incompetent driver. It must also be shown that the defective condition and/or the incompetent driver was the cause of the accident.

Negligent Hiring and / or Supervision by Employer

A claim of negligence in the employment of the driver usually requires a showing of the following:

  • The driver was an employee and was acting in the course and scope of his or her employment at the time of the incident.
  • The employer hired or retained the driver with actual knowledge (i.e. they knew) or constructive knowledge (i.e. they should have known) of the employee’s incompetence or unfitness to operate a motor vehicle.
  • The incompetence or unfitness to drive was the cause of the collision which resulted in bodily injury or property damage.

A claim of negligent supervision usually requires proving the following:

  • The driver was an employee acting within the scope of their employment.
  • The employer acted unreasonably in supervising the employee (e.g. had unreasonable policies or procedures regarding overseeing their company drivers or had reasonable policies that were not followed)
  • As a consequence of the inadequate supervision, the employee’s conduct caused a collision, resulting in injury or property damages to the person asserting the claim.

Oftentimes, the individual driver will have a minimal or very small personal automobile policy or their insurance carrier will refuse to cover the claim based upon the fact that they were operating their vehicle while “on the job”. These theories of liability provide the injured party with a means to hold the employer responsible and recover potentially much more by way of a commercial insurance policy, which usually has a much higher limit of coverage.

The Need to Consult an Attorney Familiar with Company Car Accidents in California

These types of cases are not simple to deal with. Oftentimes, the employer claims that the employee was not “in the course and scope” of their employment at the time of the incident but, was “between jobs” or on a “personal errand.” In addition, finding out the necessary information to prove a negligent entrustment or hiring claim often requires obtaining detailed records of the driver’s employment history. None of this is accomplished very well, if at all, without the assistance of a lawyer familiar with seeking compensation in motor vehicle accidents involving commercial cars used for business purposes.

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.