When a person engaging in activities arising out of his or her employment causes a motor vehicle collision, not only may the person be held liable for any harm caused by the accident but in many cases, the person’s employer may be held liable as well. Recently, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee discussed when an employer will be held liable for the negligence of an employee driver, in a case in which a tow truck driver struck an unconscious pedestrian. If you were injured in an accident with a truck driver, you should speak to a Tennessee truck accident attorney regarding what damages you may be able to recover.
Facts Regarding the Accident
Reportedly, the plaintiff’s decedent was assaulted at a convenience store, after which he was chased and struck in the head with a rock, rendering him unconscious in the left lane of a road. He was wearing camouflage. The defendant driver was driving a tow truck that was towing a police car. He turned into the left lane of the subject road at a speed slower than the posted speed limit. As he approached the decedent, another individual ran into the road to alert the defendant driver of the decedent’s presence. The defendant driver swerved to miss the individual and struck the decedent. The decedent ultimately died from his injuries. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant driver, his employer, and the County. A bench trial was held, during which the sole issue was whether the Defendant employer was liable for the purported negligence of the defendant driver.
Vicarious Liability Under Tennessee Law
The court stated that drivers have a duty to keep a lookout that an ordinary prudent person would keep in the same situation. Further, the duty to keep a lookout while driving is codified at Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-143. The court noted, however, that merely because an accident occurs, it cannot be presumed that anyone acted negligently. Rather, the court explained that a person alleging negligence must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, but that the defendant’s conduct fell below the standard of care, which amounted to a breach. The plaintiff must also establish proximate cause.