New Twist on Employer Liability for Commuting Employees’ Vehicular Accidents

In general, employers are liable for any wrongful actions committed by their employees while the employees are carrying out their job duties — including vehicular accidents while on the job. Accident victims can sue not only the individuals at fault, but often their employers as well.

An exception to this rule exists for accidents that occur during an employee’s normal commute. Because employees are not engaged in work duties while traveling to and from work, employers are generally not liable for employees’ misdeeds during those travels.  This exception has been weakened over the years by certain Appellate Court Decisions.  The Courts have taken the position that if the employee’s use of his or her personal vehicle is required for the work, such use benefits the employer and the employer will be liable for vehicular accidents occurring during normal commute times.

A recent California Court of Appeal decision (Newland v. County of Los Angeles, 24 Cal.App.5th 676 (2018) has actually created an exception to the exception to the law imposing liability upon the employer for an accident during a commute. The Court held that if the accident occurs on a day in which the employer didn’t require the employee to use a personal vehicle, such as driving to visit clients, make deliveries, do errands, and thus didn’t obtain a benefit from having the car available that day, the employer wouldn’t be vicariously liable for a commute accident on such a day. (Newland v. County of Los Angeles, 24 Cal.App.5th 676 (2018)).

Contact our office today if you have questions about employer liability or if you need your employee manual updated.

By: Roy Schneider, Esq.