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Can I file a personal injury claim against an employer if their employee caused me harm?

In many cases, an employer or company can be held responsible and ordered to compensate a victim when an employee’s behavior led to personal injury. Because employers direct the actions of their workers and have the right to profit from these activities, they are also expected to bear the responsibility of employee misconduct. To receive compensation, employee acts of wrongdoing must fall under two broad categories:

  • Misconduct occurring within the scope of employment or job function.
  • Misdeeds committed outside the scope of employment but which occur as a byproduct of employer negligence.

Determining whether a harmful action falls under a worker’s scope of employment can be tricky as the boundaries between professional and personal lives are increasingly obscured. Generally, to ascertain whether a worker caused harm while performing their essential job function, a judge or jury will consider the following criteria:

  • Whether the victim’s injuries were sustained on company property and/or within normal business hours.
  • If the employee was performing job-related tasks when harm was caused.
  • If the worker’s actions leading to injury were motivated by the employer’s interests.

If, for example, a pizza delivery person drives recklessly, ignoring traffic signals and speeding well above the limit, to meet a company guarantee of “30 minutes or it’s free” and subsequently causes an accident, the employer, regardless of whether they explicitly pressure their employee to act recklessly or not, will be held liable.

If an employee caused harm while acting beyond the limits of their prescribed function, an employer may only be held culpable if there is evidence of negligence in their hiring or retention practices. The most common type of misconduct in this category is violent crime, such as murder, rape, physical assault, or robbery. The employer would be held liable if they failed to conduct a background check that would have revealed previous convictions for violent crimes or if they kept an employee knowing their criminal history posed a threat to others. For instance, if a maintenance worker must make house calls, special care should be taken on the part of the employer to ensure public safety and perform a thorough background check.

Requiring employers to share responsibility for the actions of their workers increases the likelihood of making a victim whole. The medical expenses related to personal injury alone may far exceed the financial capacity of a single employee. Conversely, a company may have unlimited resources to bolster their defense. That is why it is of the utmost importance to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer.

If you’ve been injured, call our attorneys at Crane Flores, LLP anytime, day or night, at (805) 628-4967. We operate on a contingency basis – we don’t get paid unless you win.