Avoid the Bender—Avoid the Fender Bender

Is an employer ever liable for personal injuries in a car accident caused by its employee drinking and driving?

California drunk driving accident attorneys help injured victims (or their survivors) recover compensation for their damages.

Drunk driving lawsuits are a subset of personal injury law. Because drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care not to injure others while they are driving, a person who is injured due to another driver’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions or inactions may sue for damages. If successful, they may recover compensatory damages for things like current and future medical costs, property damage, lost wages and diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more.

Under the legal doctrine of vicarious liability, and employer may be held responsible for the damages to others that occur as a result of the negligence of its employees– if the employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident. “The ‘scope of employment’ includes acts that are related to the type of work that the employee was hired to perform or those that are reasonably foreseeable.”

Under the doctrine of negligent hiring, employers may also be held responsible for personal injuries caused by their employees if the employer either knew or should’ve known about incompetence or something worrisome in the employee’s background prior to hiring, but hired them anyway. Similarly, employers may be held responsible for employee’s negligent actions under the doctrine of negligent retention if the employer knew or should’ve known the employee would be likely or pre-disposed –based on their background and/or job responsibilities – – to commit a wrong against another party and then the employee actually does commit that wrong.

Now imagine having a job where part of your job description was to entertain your company’s clients. Drive them around, wine them and dine them. And you have permission to drink alcohol, too “in moderation” – – whatever that means.

Reportedly, an office manager charged with the duty of entertaining clients, didn’t have the luck of the Irish when he took a company client out drinking to a pub on St. Patrick’s Day evening and both men drank alcohol in excess of the legal limit for driving. While driving the client home, the employee hit another vehicle, seriously injuring the client whose right arm was nearly amputated and required 30 surgeries.

The client sued the employee’s company based on vicarious liability and negligent retention claiming he was acting within the scope of his employment and the company allowed him to drink and drive clients despite his DUI conviction and resulting suspended license within six months of his hiring.

The company countered that the outing was outside the scope of employment, between two friends who were socializing, and argued that because the client was also intoxicated he should be held contributorily negligent for getting in the car. A jury awarded the client over $15 million, assigning 80% of the fault of the company and 20% to the client, thereby reducing the clients award to just over $12 million.

If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident or any accident as a result of the negligence of another person, even if you may have been partially responsible, call the personal injury experts at J&Y Law Firm at 888-806-6722 today for a free consultation. With 21 offices throughout the state, we represent accident victims all over California as well as those hurt while visiting the state.