Magazine article HRMagazine

Can a Company Be Held Liable If an Employee Is Driving Drunk and Causes a Car Accident While on Business Travel?

Magazine article HRMagazine

Can a Company Be Held Liable If an Employee Is Driving Drunk and Causes a Car Accident While on Business Travel?

Article excerpt

It's possible. The company could be sued for negligent hiring, for example, if the employee had a history of drunken driving and it failed to take that into account when allowing the employee to drive a car for business.

Even without negligence, employers can be held liable under a legal theory called vicarious liability. Under this tenet, the employer's liability is derived from acts that employees perform while working on behalf of the employer. The term is often used in personal injury cases in which an employee injures another person while on the job. The employer may be responsible to the party harmed, even though it was without direct fault.

According to the vicarious liability theory, an employer may be held liable only for an employee act that is committed within the "scope of employment." However, courts in recent years have defined "scope of employment" quite broadly.

For example, even if an employee disobeys the employer's explicit instructions and, as a result, causes injury, the employer may be found liable as long as the injury occurred while the individual was working. …

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