Cambria Heights, NY asked in Car Accidents and Personal Injury for New York

Q: Employee causes a car accident during work hours due to being under the influence of narcotics is the company liable?

Employee was also under suspicion of using drugs but Employer ignored reports from coworkers.

1 Lawyer Answer
Jesse M. Minc
Jesse M. Minc
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • New York, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: As with most legal questions, the answer is "it depends". Under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 388, owners and operators of vehicles are jointly and severally liable if the vehicle is involved in an accident under most circumstances. If the employee had permission to drive the vehicle at the time of the accident, and the company owned it, the company is most likely liable for the accident. Also, under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is vicariously liable for the negligent and tortious actions of its employee if the employee injures someone while acting in the course of his or her employment. Thus, if the employee who caused this accident was on the clock at the time of the accident, and especially if he or she was driving a company car, the employer is most likely liable for any damage caused by the employee.

Whether or not the employee was under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident is generally an aggravating factor, rather than a dispositive legal issue. That means that it only makes things worse for the employer if the employer is liable under VTL 388 and/or respondeat superior as cited above. Application of liability under those doctrines does not turn on whether or not the employee was under the influence, or whether the employer knew about that at the time of the accident.

So, in sum, it is very likely that the employer will be responsible for the damage caused by the employee in this situation if he/she was operating a company car at the time, or was acting in the course of his employment when the accident occurred. The fact that the employee was high at the time will only make matters worse for the employer, especially if the employer was aware of the employees penchant for drug use on the job.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.