As we often detail on this blog, Maryland truck and bus accidents can have disastrous impacts, resulting in serious bodily injuries or even death. There is no shortage of examples of this, but take a recent crash, occurring one Monday morning when a bus preparing to let passengers get off was hit by a utility truck. The utility truck burst into flames, and the driver was killed. Additionally, 14 of the 15 passengers on the bus were taken to area hospitals with injuries. This accident is just one of the many truck and bus accidents that occur every day.
Because these accidents can be so serious, they are often followed by Maryland personal injury lawsuits—lawsuits seeking to recover financially from the party who caused the accident, to cover medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. But what happens when the driver who caused the accident cannot cover the full amount owed to plaintiffs, due to lack of finances? Well, for some plaintiffs, they may be able to also sue the negligent driver’s employer, especially since trucks and buses are often driven by drivers in the scope of their employment for someone else, such as a food company or tourism business. The employers may be liable for the damage caused through a doctrine called vicarious liability.
For the doctrine of vicarious liability to apply, the plaintiff must prove all the typical elements of a tort with respect to the driver’s conduct—duty, breach, causation, and harm—and then also prove that the driver was acting in the scope of their employment. A driver who is driving for work is driving within the scope of their employment unless they were engaged in some major detour. For example, if a pizza delivery driver is on their way to deliver a pizza when they get into an accident, then there is likely vicarious liability and the pizza restaurant may be liable. But if the delivery driver delivers the pizza and then decides to not return to work but instead drives their girlfriend around town, then an accident occurring during this detour may not give rise to vicarious liability.