Although it is often taken for granted when discussing responsibility for commercial vehicle accidents, there is in fact a particular legal doctrine, accepted in North Carolina, which specifically those in North Carolina who are injured by a negligent driver to sue the driver’s employer.
The idea behind respondeat superior, which literally means “let the master respond,” is that someone who tasks another with a job or other duty shares some responsibility for the outcome of that task, particularly if someone winds up hurt. Accordingly, if an employee who is driving a vehicle is doing so within the “scope of employment,” and employer must be prepared to pay compensation for the employee’s negligence.
Generally speaking, one can assume that an employee who is driving a company vehicle is doing so within the scope of employment; however, the question of whether a negligent party acted within the scope of employment is sometimes a tricky one. Strictly speaking, a person who is not running an errand for his or her job, such as the case of the person who decides to run home for lunch in the company car, is not acting in the scope of employment sine things like lunch have nothing to do with the person’s job duties.
There are exceptions to this rule, as the law recognizes people commonly intermingle personal and work-related errands. A qualified personal injury in North Carolina is therefore the best resource for knowing exactly how respondeat superior will apply in a particular case. In any event, though, someone who has been injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle like a delivery truck should carefully note the name the truck driver’s employer.