A bus driver skidded out of control on an icy road on Interstate 78 near Summit, New Jersey, injuring three people.
Nevertheless, passengers on board the Coach bus said the incident could have been much worse. The bus driver, whose name was not released, said his training and experience helped him deal with the sudden emergency as the bus ran over a patch of black ice before crashing into another car and smashing into a guardrail. All of the injured victims were transported to a local hospital, but they are expected to survive.
The bus crash was just one of three collisions that engulfed seven vehicles on the same stretch of icy roadway. “If I had my skates, I’d play hockey on it,” remarked John Micheller, whose pickup truck crashed as he tried to avoid the wreckage.
Third Party Liability
Anytime a commercial operator causes a car crash, such as a taxi driver, bus driver, or perhaps even an Uber driver, respondeat superior (Latin for “let the master answer”) normally applies and the employer is liable for damages along with the tortfeasor (negligent driver). The same theory often applies to an ER doctor who misdiagnosed a patient or a police officer who used excessive force in an arrest.
Third party liability theories are very important in negligence cases, due to the large number of uninsured or underinsured motorists. Third party liability means an additional source of recovery, which often means additional compensation.
The plaintiff has the burden of proof to establish the elements of respondeat superior by a preponderance of the evidence. These elements are:
- Employee: Most all workers are “employees” for negligence purposes, even if they are “independent contractors” or “interns” or “volunteers” for other legal purposes.
- Scope of Employment: If the employer benefits in any way from the employee’s conduct, that worker is operating within the scope of employment. Any benefit will do, such as driving a company car that has the employer’s logo on a door.
One of the only defenses to respondeat superior is that the employee committed an illegal act, such as theft of a vehicle from the motor pool. New York is a modified joint and several liability state that basically holds third parties responsible for 100 percent of the damages if their fault exceeds 50 percent.
The negligent driver is often not the only person liable for damages. For a free consultation with attorneys who are committed to maximum compensation, contact our office. You have a limited