In our last post, we spoke a bit about a car accident case here in Pennsylvania in which a driver and his employer were sued for the injury of a couple and the death of their son. As we noted, the driver was determined to have been on the job at the time of the accident. Specifically, he was acting “within the course and schedule of his employment,” according to sources.

This terminology–which may or may not have been directly from the court decision–refers to a basic requirement of the doctrine of respondeat superior: that the employee who caused the damages did so during the course of, and within the scope of, his or her employment. Case law in Pennsylvania has established a number of rules concerning the applicability of the doctrine of respondeat superior, and it is important for those who have been injured by an employer to seek out the help of an experienced attorney who understands the law and how it applies to the specific fact pattern in their case. 

There are a variety of factors courts consider when determining whether to hold an employer liable for the actions of an employee. Some of these are: whether the employee was engaging in activity the employee was employed to engage in; whether the employee was at least partly motivated by the intention to serve the employer; and whether the incident occurred substantially within the time and space limits of the employment.

Another aspect of the law is that, for employees who cause car accidents in company vehicles, names or placards on commercial vehicles raise the presumption that the company owns the vehicle and that the driver is the agency of the company. A variety of rules apply with respect to evidence rebutting this presumption, as well as the introduction of evidence that multiple employers are had control over the employee at the time of the accident, and it is important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney who has a solid grasp of the law so that one builds the strongest possible case in one’s favor.