Louisiana Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Employer’s Insurance Carrier in Wrongful Death Case

empty suburb drivewayThere are many complicated issues that can arise in a motor vehicle accident lawsuit. When the driver who causes the accident is working at the time of the crash, you may be entitled to recover damages from his or her employer based on a doctrine called vicarious liability. A seasoned Louisiana auto accident lawyer can assist you in determining whether this doctrine may apply to your claim. The sooner you understand which parties to include in the lawsuit, the better. A recent Louisiana appellate opinion discusses this doctrine and the complex issues that it can involve.

The background facts of the case are as follows. The defendant driver was turning into his driveway when he struck a six-year-old child. Unfortunately, the child did not survive the accident. The child’s parents filed a wrongful death action against the defendant driver, seeking a variety of items in compensation. The parents also named the defendant’s employer as a defendant in the action, claiming that the vehicle the defendant driver was driving at the time of the crash was covered by the employer’s insurance policy.

The employer and its insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the defendant driver was not working in the course and scope of his job when the accident happened and that they could not be held liable as a result. For an employer to be held liable for the tortious acts of an employee, the employee must be performing his or her usual job duties and acting with the authority of the employer.

The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, concluding that the employee may have been covered under an insurance policy that applied to the vehicle but that he was not acting within the course and scope of employment at the time of the fatal crash. The trial court later granted the parents’ motion for a new trial and reversed the decision. The parents then filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether the defendant driver was covered under the employer’s insurance policy. The insurer filed a competing motion for summary judgment, arguing that the defendant driver could not be considered an insured. In support of its motion, the insurer included an affidavit from the defendant driver stating that he was not acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. At a hearing on the motions, the lower court concluded that the defendant was not covered by the employer’s insurance policy. Accordingly, it dismissed all claims against the insurance company, and the parents appealed.

The appellate court reviewed the terms of the insurance policy in deciding whether the defendant driver was covered. The policy included an owner exception provision, which stated that an employee using his or her own personal automobile is not covered by the insurance policy. Since the defendant testified that he was driving his personal vehicle at the time of the crash, the appellate court concluded that he was not covered by his insurer’s insurance policy. As a result, the appellate court upheld the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims against the employer’s insurance carrier.

If you are dealing with serious injuries and damages resulting from a motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At Dué Guidry Piedrahita Andrews L.C., we have assisted many Louisiana residents with securing the settlement or the judgment they deserve after a devastating car wreck. We can handle all phases of the litigation, including negotiations with insurance companies that don’t have your best interests in mind. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 1-800-929-7481 or contact us online.

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