If you have been involved in a Tennessee automobile accident and are considering whether to file a lawsuit, one of the questions that you must contemplate is whether the defendant is going to have the funds, or insurance, necessary to pay for any damages that you may be awarded. When you can’t actually recover from a defendant, it may not be worth your time and expense to initiate a lawsuit.
One way that plaintiffs can sometimes obtain a better chance of recovering on their award is to sue a defendant’s employer as well if the accident occurred while the defendant was on the job. This is called vicarious liability. While vicarious liability can be used to recover from employers who are responsible for their employees, the courts draw the line at making employers responsible for independent contractors that they may hire. A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals looks at what distinguishes an employee from an independent contractor in this analysis.
In this truck accident case, E.M. was struck by a truck driven by C.C. E.M. was thrown from his own vehicle and suffered serious injuries. He sued C.C. and Highways, Inc., for his injuries. At the time of the accident, C.C. was driving a dump truck for Highways, Inc., and was performing his duties as a driver for Highways, Inc. E.M. argued that C.C. was acting in the role of employee, while Highways argued that C.C. was acting in the role of independent contractor. Highways quickly moved for summary judgment and, in support of their motion, submitted a list of nineteen undisputed facts, based on an affidavit from C.C., that they alleged showed that C.C. was a contractor. E.M. disputed nine of these facts and argued that this was enough to create genuine issues of material fact as to C.C.’s status and avoid summary judgment. The court held a brief hearing and ultimately concluded that there were no material facts in dispute. Accordingly, the court dismissed the claims.