For many of the New Yorkers who are injured in car accidents each year, a personal injury lawsuit is necessary to cover their losses. When the at-fault driver is an employee of a New York business, the victim may have the right to sue the employer if the accident occurred during the course and scope of their employment.
Knowing who to name in a car accident lawsuit can have a significant impact on the outcome of the case. These are some of the factors that New York City car accident lawyers take into account when analyzing an accident involving an employee.
The importance of naming all potentially liable parties
At the outset of a lawsuit, an attorney needs to gauge all of the likely liable parties. If a key party or person is left out, the victim may not receive compensation.
Determining this requires breaking down the facts of the case to sift out signs of negligence. It means looking for any person or entity whose lapse may have contributed to the accident. Potential defendants can include other drivers, car manufacturers, and even city governments.
Including all potentially liable parties means that the defendants cannot point the blame at a non-party. It also increases the chances that the defendants will have the financial means or insurance necessary to pay a verdict.
New York employer liability for injuries
There is a long-standing legal doctrine known as Respondeat Superior, Latin for “let the master speak.” Under this doctrine, it is the employer who must answer to the claims of a third party who is injured by their employee.
An employer is not automatically liable for every negligent act of its workforce. Instead, the employee must be actively engaged in their job. That means that if they are driving to work or engaged in a frolic or detour (basically a side trip for the employee’s purpose rather than the employee’s business), then the employer is not responsible.
Employer liability in a given situation may require complex analysis. Speak with our team of New York City personal injury lawyers to get a detailed assessment in your case.
Employee v. Independent contractor
Not all workers are employees, and that can be a problem when it comes to Respondeat Superior. If the at-fault driver was an independent contractor, the company might not be liable.
Whether a worker was called an employee or a contractor does not matter as much as how their relationship was structured. For example, if the business set the work hours, provided the location and means to perform the job, and controlled the way it was to be done, the worker is likely an employee. If the worker was free from supervision, set their own schedule, paid their own expenses, and was free to turn down work or hire additional help, they are likely an independent contractor.
It is not always easy to tell whether someone was an employee or an independent contractor, and even as an independent contractor, exceptions may apply. For example, federal trucking laws deem truck drivers– who are often independent contractors– as employees in the case of an accident.
The role of a personal injury lawyer in a New York car accident case
When you pursue a personal injury claim arising from an accident, you may only have one chance to secure full compensation. Once your claim is settled, or your case is litigated, it is usually too late to add another defendant or increase your claim for damages. Naming all of the potentially liable parties at the outset can prevent you from leaving money on the table. Your personal injury lawyer will know what to look for and guide you through this and other potential pitfalls.
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Friedman, Levy Goldfarb & Green, P.C. is a New York City-based law firm. We have spent the past 50 years advocating for victims of accidents and medical malpractice. Call today to schedule a free, confidential consultation with a member of our team.