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Employers, not just drivers, may be held liable in car wrecks

Readers in San Diego may have heard about an interesting court decision in the California Court of Appeals recently. A California woman crashed into a motorcyclist in the parking lot of a frozen yogurt shop. The motorcyclist sued, and the court ruled that not only was the woman liable for the damages she caused, but her employer could be held liable as well.

The woman was on her way home from work when she stopped to attend a yoga class and then treat herself to a frozen yogurt. The accident occurred as she pulled into the yogurt shop. The woman worked as an insurance salesperson for a company that had a policy requiring employees to use their own vehicles for work-related transportation, and the company would then reimburse them for their mileage. In this case, the court reasoned that the woman's decision to run these personal errands was not an unforeseeable departure from her work-related use or commute. Furthermore, because she was required by company policy to use this vehicle for work purposes, and the use of her own vehicle was beneficial to the employer, the employer had liability for accidents that occurred during the use of the vehicle.

This decision is good news for people who have been injured in a car accident under similar circumstances. Often when a victim of a car crash suffers serious injuries, the driver who caused the accident may not have the assets or insurance to fully cover the injuries suffered by the victim. But if the person's employer can also be held liable, the chances of getting sufficient compensation for the victim's injuries increase substantially.

Liability doesn't always start and end with the driver, which is why the right attorney will fully investigate all potential sources of compensation.

Source: Lexology "California employer held liable for employee's car accident during stop for frozen yogurt and yoga class," Patricia J. Hill, Matthew W. Clarke and Jeffrey P. Watson, Nov. 14, 2013

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