When two motorists get into a wreck and one of the drivers was to blame, generally the negligent driver and their collision insurance company have to compensate the other driver for their injuries and the damage to their vehicle. But there are cases when a party that was nowhere near the scene of the crash could still be liable to the victim — such as when the negligent driver was working at the time of the accident.

Under the theory of vicarious liability, if a driver is in the course of his or her work duties when they caused a motor vehicle wreck, the driver’s employer could potentially be liable. This is especially common in commercial trucking accidents. But proving that the trucking company who employed the driver who hit you can be challenging.

Employers and personal injury law in Ohio

The legal concept that an employer can be held financially liable for an employee’s negligence is call respondeat superior. The idea is that an employer is responsible for its workers’ actions while the worker is in the course of his or her employment. So, if a truck driver is delivering goods and engages in distracted driving, resulting in a serious crash, the trucking company the driver works for could be a party to the resulting litigation.

Even if the truck driver was not acting within the scope of his or her employment, it still may be possible to show the employer is liable for the crash due to negligent hiring. For example, driving drunk is outside the scope of a truck driver’s employment. But if the company hired a driver with a record of DUI arrests, and the driver subsequently crashes into your car while intoxicated, the company could be held negligent.

Why hold the employer responsible?

This is important for plaintiffs, especially if they suffered extensive injuries. Employers (and their insurance) tend to be able to afford much greater damages than individual truck drivers. Your chances at a full recovery for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages are significantly greater if you can pursue recovery against the employer as well as the driver. Your personal injury attorney will help you understand if this applies to your case.