When an accident occurs, there is usually a fight over whose insurance company will pay for the damages. The issue becomes even messier when the driver responsible for the wreck appears to be working under different employers. This was the issue in a recently decided case by the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit, which involved a wreck in Maurice.
In that case, Broussard v. Progressive Security Ins. Co., et. al., a dump truck hauling material to a construction site struck another vehicle in an intersection. The passengers of that vehicle filed a lawsuit against the driver, the subcontractor for which the driver worked, the general contractor who had hired the subcontractor and the insurance companies for both the subcontractor and the general contractor. The issue before the court was which insurance company would be held liable for damages: the subcontractor’s or the general contractor’s.
The court focused primarily on the language of the policy held by the general contractor. Under that policy, a “non-owned auto” could be covered under certain conditions. A “non-owned auto” was described as a vehicle not actually owned by the company, but were vehicles leased, hired or rented to be used in connection with the business. Thus, the question became whether the dump truck driver had been hired by the general contractor and whether or not the truck he was driving was hired or rented by the general contractor.
After analyzing the facts, the court found that, although the employee was hired by the general contractor, there was no evidence that the truck itself was hired or rented. Therefore, the subcontractor’s insurance still covered the truck and would be liable for the plaintiff’s damages.
Insurance issues like this are complex, especially in the business context. Depending on the policy, certain vehicles may be covered and others may not depending on certain circumstances. The determination of which insurance applies could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for that insurance company, and hundreds or thousands of dollars in increased premiums for the policy holder. For this reason, it is important that companies and individuals know and understand their insurance policies.
Additionally, companies must be aware of who they hire. As was touched on in the above case, employees who cause an accident while operating within the scope of their employment can place their employer in the liability hot seat. Insurance in this context will play a critical role. For example, if an employee is drunk while driving his delivery route and causes an accident, the employer and the employer’s insurance will likely be responsible for damages.
For businesses, this means hiring a questionable driver can put the company at risk of increased expenses from lawsuits and the danger of being dropped from its insurance. For individuals injured by these negligent drivers, this structure allows them to obtain the compensation they need to cover medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Then, hopefully, the individual can achieve a full recovery.
When an accident occurs, the last thing people want to deal with is interpreting convoluted insurance policies. Yet, these documents are of vital importance when determining who will pay for accident damages. A competent attorney can walk you through the documents and help create a legal strategy that protects your best interests.
If you or one of your employees has been in an auto accident, contact the Berniard Law Firm to discuss your case.