If a person injured in an auto accident sues my employer and I, could I be personally liable for her damages

Asked almost 6 years ago - Sacramento, CA

i was in an accident while at work i drive a dump truck and a lady hit the trailer on the truck as i was making a u-turn their was no sign stateing you could not make one. she hit the end of the trailer. and was severaly injured she is suing for 2 million five hundred dollars and the lawsuit papers say against the company and me. if she wins am i responsible for paying the lawsuit.

Attorney answers (6)

  1. Morgan G Adams

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    Answered . Dump trucks are commercial motor vehicles typically requiring a commercial drivers license [CDL] to operate. The specialized training involved in getting a CDL and becoming a professional driver generally gives a higher awareness of danger on the road for drivers like yourself with proper training. Making a U-Turn is legal if there is no prohibition against IF IT CAN BE MADE SAFELY. Clearly the lady that hit you believes you made an unsafe U-Turn.

    Liability will typically be found against the owner of the truck and the driver in case such as you have described. The owner's insurance will cover both you and the company. Significantly, your employer is responsible, in every state I am aware of, for your actions. This means the employer must pay for any fault you are found to have in causing the wreck. Finally the employer is responsible for thier own independant negligence. This negligence is typically for failing to properly train you to drive your vehicle and have you operate within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. You are not responsible for any failure of the owner which contributed to the collision. In short, you proably won't have to pay anything,although technically you are also liable.

  2. Mark M. Bello

    Contributor Level 10

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    Answered . Just because she is suing you doesn't make you personally responsible for paying any judgment she receives. The final award would have to exceed all insurance coverages. Your employer probably has substantial insurance on the dump truck and other owned vehicles; your personal insurance would kick in next. From the story your are telling, there may some liability problems for her, as well. I would make an appointment to see the attorney who is defending the case for your employer and ask him what the likelihood is that you will have to pay any money, personally. I suspect that he will ease your concerns

  3. Lars A. Lundeen

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    Answered . Yes, but the liability insurance held by your employer as well as your own personal auto liability insurance company would pay on any settlement or judgment up to the policy limits. Your own personal automobile liability insurance carrier should be placed on notice of the accident, if that has not already been done.

    You would only be responsible for paying a settlement or judgment out of your own pocket if the insurance coverage available to you is insufficient to pay the damages. You should confirm the amount of the available coverage to put your mind at ease. If the plaintiff is suing for $2,500,000 and your employer's auto liability insurance coverage and your own personal coverage equal that amount, you should be fine. However, you should do everything you can to encourage a settlement of the claim within the applicable policy limits. If the case were to go to a jury verdict, and the amount of the judgment exceeds the applicable coverage, you and your employer could be liable for the judgment amount in excess of the policy coverage.

  4. Jeremy Richard Rosenthal

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    Answered . When an automobile accident occurs, the at fault person's automobile insurance generally covers the damages. If you are found at fault, then your company's automobile insurance would likely cover the damages. Your company's insurance will try to settle the case out of court and as long as they can reach an agreement, you should not have to pay anything. You should consult with your company's attorney so they can explain how this process works.

  5. Scot Dale Goldberg

    Contributor Level 9

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    Answered . The easy answer is yes, but not likley to happen. The plaintiff and their atttorney have included you because they have to in order to get to your employer. You are not the one with the deep pockets, but you are the one they have to use to ge there!

  6. Stephen Laurence Hoffman

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    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . First off, relax a bit as your employer's insurance policy most likely covered you for most actions of yours while in his employ. While the U-turn may or may not have been made with proper care, even if you were negligent, that is what the insurance is designed to cover.

    In Illinois, employers are required to maintain workers' compensation insurance (or be "self insured") to cover all employees for all acts that "arise out of " and occur "in the course of" their employment. Both of these standards would likely have been met had you been injured in the course of this U-turn collision, even if it had been partially your fault.

    In your case, the automobile and general liability policies of your employer (the company) likely cover this scenario. You would be covered as an employee. There are only a few situations where this might not take care of you completely.

    One would be if the limits of the insurance were not sufficient to cover the entire amout of her injuries and damages (just because someone sues for $2 milliion doesn't mean they can prove those damages in that amount). Check with your employer or his insurance carrier to verify the policy limits. In many states you can determine this by writing to the insurance carrier and requesting the information.

    Another situation where the insurance might not cover you completely might be if you were outside of the covered situations, such as driving your own vehicle during work hours, running a personal errand, or if you had acted intentionally rather than negligently.

    From what you've stated, it sounds like you should be fine and the employer's insurance should cover you. Make sure to notify your own personal automobile carrier just in case and also check into whether your employer had an umbrella policy if the limits of his coverage seem low.

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