Florida Court Discusses Respondeat Superior in Car Accident Cases

People who drive recklessly and cause collisions are often held liable for any injuries that arise due to the accidents. In some instances, other parties may be deemed accountable as well. For example, if a driver was working at the time of a crash, the driver’s employer may be found liable under a theory of respondeat superior. Employers will only be deemed responsible for the negligent acts of their employees in certain situations, however, as explained in a recent Florida opinion issued in a car accident case. If you were hurt in a crash, you could be owed damages, and it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable Florida car accident attorney to assess what claims you may be able to pursue.

The Accident and Subsequent Claims

Allegedly, the plaintiff was injured in a collision with the defendant driver. At the time of the crash, the defendant was working temporarily in Florida. The defendant employer paid for his hotel room and rental car during the duration of his stay. The defendant driver was operating the rental car at the time of the crash. The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging negligence claims against the driver and respondeat superior claims against the employer. The employer moved for summary judgment, arguing that the driver was not operating in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the crash and, therefore, it could not be deemed liable. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Respondeat Superior Liability in Florida

Under Florida law, respondeat superior renders employers vicariously liable for the negligent acts of their employees that are committed within the scope and course of their employment. An employee’s actions are within the scope of employment if they occur substantially within the permitted space and time limits and are undertaken at least in part to serve the employer.

When the parties do not dispute material facts, whether an employee is acting within the scope and course of employment is a question of law. Further, the court elaborated that it is the well-established law that an employee traveling to and from work is not acting within the scope of employment so as to impose liability on the employer.

The plaintiff nonetheless argued that this rule did not apply, stating that the defendant driver was a traveling employee, in that his work involved travel away from the employer’s premises and therefore was within the scope of his employment. The court was not persuaded by this argument, noting the traveling employee exception only applies in workers’ compensation cases. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Speak to an Experienced Florida Attorney

Car accidents often cause extensive harm, and in many cases, more than one party can be held accountable for the losses incurred. If you were injured in a collision, it is advisable to speak to an attorney about your right to seek compensation. The experienced Florida lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A., can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and craft a persuasive case designed to help you pursue a just result. You can contact us at 800-283-7442 or through the online form to set up a consultation.




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