If you’re injured in an accident, who will pay?
When a person is hurt by someone else the law says that someone else should pay to compensate the injured person, but who? There are a few different answers to that question in cases of personal injury. The most obvious place to start is that the person who directly caused the harm should pay for the harm. While that person would be named in a lawsuit, the real goal is to have their insurance pay. In certain cases, you also have the option of suing the company a person works for as well and the company’s insurance paying for the damage. Since companies often have more money and better insurance than individuals, this is more ideal. Typically, commercial policies of this type cover at least one million dollars per claim.
A bicyclist is hurt riding in San Francisco. Who should be sued?
Imagine the following scenario. A bicyclist is riding on the far side of a busy street in San Francisco. Occasionally cabs, ride-share vehicles, and other motorists are pulling over to the side to let passengers out of their cars. This means the bicyclist has cars to her left and the sidewalk to her right. Suddenly, a car door swings open and there is hardly enough time for her to do anything before she rides right into the door. The case would become more complicated if she were doing something illegal or was at fault for what happened, of course. Here, the car passenger simply opened the car door and exited the cab without looking. Who should the bicyclist sue? She should first look to the person at fault for the harm. In this case, the passenger opened the car door on another person and is responsible. She could sue the passenger and go for the passenger’s insurance, if there is any. But if the passenger was on a business trip to San Francisco or working she might also be able to sue the passenger’s employer. She might also be able to file a claim with the employer’s insurance.
Is an employer liable for an accident they’re employee caused?
The ability to sue an employer for the acts of their employee comes from a legal doctrine called respondeat superior, translated from Latin as “let the master answer.” Essentially, the doctrine makes an employer responsible for certain acts of an employee. Put another way, if an employee harms someone while acting on behalf of the employer, then the employer can be vicariously responsible for the harm and be required to pay. While this sounds simple, the vagueness of the terms can often require a legal expert to know what they mean in specific situations.
How is liability affected if someone is on a business trip?
For instance, if the passenger was in San Francisco for a business trip, but was stopping for coffee when the accident occurred. Were they acting on their employer’s behalf or was it a personal errand outside the scope of their employment? Business trips have been considered within scope of employment and only a substantial deviation from the trip would remove the employee from that scope. In certain cases, there’s also some difficulty in determining whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor. The difference is crucial because employers often do not have to pay for harm caused by independent contractors. A person will likely be deemed an employee, rather than an independent contractor, if the employer has control over the ways and means an employee does their job.
Ride sharing liability is still being decided in the courts
However, the difficulty present in determining a worker’s employment status becomes most clear when talking about ride sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft. Here, the debate about whether their drivers are independent contractors or not continues to rage on in courts across the country. However, even when dealing with an employee, the employer is usually a company rather than a person’s boss. This can add another level of complexity when it comes to picking whom to sue. Choosing the right party to sue for recovery is a strategic and sometimes surprisingly complicated decision. At Callaway & Wolf, we regularly help our personal injury clients in the San Francisco Bay Area find the best party to sue for recovery. There’s no reason to trudge through these issues alone.
Request a free case consultation with a top-rated San Francisco injury attorney
If you’ve been the victim of a medical mistake or injury, please don’t hesitate to contact us at our offices in San Francisco. We’ll be happy to review your case to make sure you know your rights. We take pride in making sure each client receives personal attention from our experienced lawyers. If you have any questions about a car accident, bicycle injury or possible medical malpractice, ask our attorneys in SF for a free case review.