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Is an Employer Always Responsible for Car Accidents Caused by Employees?

Establishing who is financially responsible for a car accident is often more difficult than you might think. For example, let’s say you are injured in an accident caused by a driver who ran a red light. Obviously the driver was negligent. But what if the driver was speeding through the intersection in a vehicle owned by their employer? Or what if the driver was driving their own vehicle but acting on behalf of their employer, e.g. driving to a client meeting? Can the employer then be held responsible for your accident-related damages?

Judge: Girl Scouts Not Liable for Motorcycle Accident Caused by Commuting Employee

To offer some practical answers to these questions, here is a recent case decided by a federal judge in Ohio, Home-Owners Insurance Co. v. Travelers Indemnity Co.. The substance of this decision actually involves a dispute between insurance companies over which one must pay for a motorcycle accident victim’s damages. But the case also speaks to the issue of establishing an employer’s liability for car accidents caused by their employees.
In this case, the plaintiff was riding his motorcycle down a street in Toledo. A van collided with the plaintiff, knocking him off his motorcycle. The plaintiff subsequently filed a claim with the van driver’s insurance carrier, as well as an uninsured motorist (UM) claim with his own insurer.
The van driver’s personal insurance policy limited liability coverage to $100,000. The plaintiff and his insurer learned, however, that at the time of the accident the van driver’s employer–the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio–had a commercial automobile policy in place that covered the van driver. Based on this information, the plaintiff and his insurer filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking compensation for the plaintiff’s accident injuries under the Girl Scouts’ insurance policy.
The policy in question stated, “Any ’employee’ of yours is an ‘insured’ while using a covered ‘auto’ you don’t own, hire or borrow in your business or personal affairs.” The plaintiff argued this language meant the van driver was covered at all times by the Girl Scouts’ policy when driving her personal vehicle. Alternatively, the plaintiff’s insurance carrier maintained the provision applied whenever an employee “drives a vehicle that the employee also regularly drives during the course of employment.”
The judge rejected both proposed interpretations. He said the policy only covered a person acting “within the scope of the person’s employment.” Here, the van driver was returning home at the end of her workday when she hit the plaintiff. In other words, she was “not engaged in the business or personal affairs of the Girl Scouts.” The Girl Scouts’ insurer was therefore not liable for the plaintiff’s damages.

Contact a Cleveland Personal Injury Lawyer Today If You Have Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident

Sorting out liability following an accident can be difficult, especially when multiple parties (and insurance companies) are involved. That is why it is important to work with an experienced Cleveland personal injury lawyer when investigating and building a case following a motorcycle accident. Contact Tittle & Perlmuter at (216) 308-1522 if you need help with a personal injury matter today. We serve clients in Cleveland, Lakewood, Elyria, Chardon, Sandusky and surrounding areas.

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