The Process for Holding a Driver’s Employer Liable in a California Auto Accident Injury Case

When you are injured as a pedestrian in an accident, you have several decisions to make and you may have several options for seeking a much-needed award of damages. Especially when you suffer substantial injuries in a crash, it is important to identify all those who may be liable, because simply recovering a judgment against an individual driver may diminish your ability to get the full compensation you need. If you can prove that the driver who hit you was engaged in job-related activities at the time of the collision, then you may be able to get a judgment of liability against the driver’s employer on the basis of something the law calls “vicarious liability.” To achieve this and other litigation goals, be sure you have an experienced Oakland injury attorney on your side.

A recent case that originated in Orange County was an example of this type of legal issue. J.A. was a pedestrian walking after dark in May 2013. As the pedestrian crossed a street, B.Z. crashed her car into J.A. The driver did not see the pedestrian until the moment before her vehicle collided with the woman. The accident caused J.A. to suffer serious injuries. At the time of the accident, B.Z. was talking on her cell phone using her car’s hands-free Bluetooth system.

B.Z. was a manager with a court reporting agency and was on the phone with one of the agency’s court reporters when the crash happened. J.A.’s assertion was that B.Z. and the reporter, M.H., were talking business and that the manager was acting the “scope of her employment” during that phone call. B.Z. asserted that M.H. was a close personal friend, that they were discussing family matters and that work-related topics never came up during the call. B.Z. also asserted that she and M.H. spoke several times per week to discuss personal matters. M.H. also testified that the two were friends and spoke frequently.

The injured pedestrian, however, had proof that seemed to indicate differently. J.A. obtained B.Z.’s cell phone records for the preceding six months. They showed that B.Z. texted M.H. exactly once, three months before the accident. The records showed that B.Z. called M.H. exactly once, which was the fateful call on the night of the accident. J.A. also had the police report, which stated that B.Z. told the police that she was on the phone with “one of her court reporters.” B.Z. said she told the police she was on the phone with her “court reporter friend.”

As an essential part of her case for vicarious liability against the court reporting agency, J.A. had to prove that B.Z. and M.H. were talking as manager and court reporter, not friend and friend. To bolster her argument, the injured woman asserted that M.H. was lying about her relationship with B.Z. and the frequency of their contacts. M.H. had reason to lie, in that almost 100% of her income came from this agency and counsel for the agency had discussed the matter with her, J.A. argued.

The problem for J.A. was that her proof regarding M.H. was too sparse. She had proof that M.H. potentially had a viable reason to lie, but she did not have proof that M.H. actually was lying. Without that, she couldn’t hold the employer liable because she lacked hard proof that B.Z. was engaged in business-related activities when the crash took place. In this circumstance, the injured woman needed something more. With that “something more,” she might have been able to achieve a different and more favorable result.

If you have hurt in an auto accident, the Oakland injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch are here to help. We have spent many years helping people hurt in car and truck crashes get the compensation they need. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Southern California Woman With Head Injury After Sidewalk Trip-and-Fall Accident Reaches Settlement for Up to $3 Million, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Aug. 8, 2018

Suing a Negligent Driver’s Employer as Part of Your California Personal Injury Case, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Oct. 12, 2016

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