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Car Accidents at Work: Barclay v. Briscoe Looks at Employer Responsibility

When we think of business-related driving accidents in North Carolina, we often think of crashes involving semi-trucks or passenger buses. But the truth of the matter is that motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of all fatal injuries on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The government reported transportation accidents accounted for 910 of the 4,206 fatal work accidents in 2010. North Carolina personal injury lawyers know that accidents involving commercial vehicles are complex cases. Legal claims often involve a driver’s employer and the company’s various insurance policies. And, while a vehicle may be insured for $100,000, companies often carry umbrella liability policies in the amount of $2 million. So successfully making a claim against a commercial vehicle’s owner or operator can help ensure adequate compensation will be available.Cases in which a victim is injured while on the job may also result in a workers’ compensation claim.

The fact is that on any given weekday a significant percentage of traffic is on the road for work — postal carriers and private couriers, salesmen, and delivery trucks are just a few examples.

In Barclay v. Briscoe, a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, Michael Barclay was injured in a car accident with a vehicle driven by longshoreman Christopher Richardson who fell asleep at the wheel while driving home after working a 22-hour shift. Barclay and his wife sued several parties, including Richardson’s employer, Ports America Baltimore Inc.

The suit alleged Ports America Baltimore Inc. was liable for Barclay’s injuries under the legal theories of respondeat superior and primary negligence.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Ports. The court found Richardson was not injured while in the scope of his employment and thus respondeat superior was not applicable. And that Ports could not be held primarily liable because it owed no duty to the public to make sure an employee was fit to drive home in his personal vehicle.

The Appeals Court affirmed, finding Richardson’s employer could not be held vicariously liable for Richardson’s motor-vehicle tort and that his employer had no duty to Barclay based only on the fact that employee fatigue was a foreseeable consequence of employment.

While the victim did not prevail in this case, it’s one court and one opinion. The fact remains, having a personal injury law firm with the knowledge and experience to pursue all avenues of your claim is critical when seeking a recovery for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills and other damages.

In this case, knowing that drowsy driving was a determining factor, and that the at-fault driver just finished a 22-hour shift, is crucial information in the hands of a victim’s attorney.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adult drivers say they have been on the road driving in the past year, even though they were tired. Other common causes of accidents are speeding, distracted driving and alcohol or drug use. Uncovering such negligence as being the root cause of an accident frequently leads to a faster and more favorable settlement.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact the North Carolina injury attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. *You never pay attorney fees until you’ve been paid.

*Exclusive of case costs.

Additional Resources
Hale v. Office of Ins. Comm’r Discusses Psychiatric Injuries in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claims, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, April 18, 2012

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