Lawyers can certainly become creatures of habit and as such get comfortable in their routine. Auto accident injury victims hire lawyers with an expectation that they will thoroughly investigate these accidents. Often, lawyers who think they have seen it all, make assumptions about how things probably were instead of actually investigating. A specific area of investigation that all too often is not thoroughly investigated by some attorneys is: "What was the purpose of the at-fault driver's trip?"
A. The Law:
If a company puts an employee on the road, and that employee causes an accident, then the company is legally responsible for the damages caused by that employee. This responsibility is promulgated through various doctrines of law including: respondent superior liability, vicarious liability, and perhaps even negligent entrustment. Finding out the purpose of the at-fault driver's trip is critical to maximizing an injury victim's recovery.
If a driver is on his own time and causes an accident, then that driver's auto insurance is responsible for the losses. But if a driver is on a task for his employer then at least two insurance policies are in play: the personal auto policy and a company commercial policy. Two policies mean more opportunities for fully compensating an injured person.
B. Specific Example:
Recently, a father of two received significant and permanent injuries in accident with a 19 year old driving on a suspended license. The good news was that the boy had his mother's car and she had $100,000 of insurance coverage. The bad news was that $100,000 was insufficient for the extent of injuries the man suffered. The accident happened at around noon. Further investigation revealed that the boy worked part time at a tire shop. The shop was several miles away.
Without further investigation, the story many attorneys would tell themselves is, "a 19 year boy, with a suspended license? Our injured guy is lucky the 19 year old was driving his mom's well insured motor vehicle. Let's just take $100,000 and be thankful." In fact, that was just such the advice our client received from a lawyer before he hired us.
However, while the boy was a 19 year old with a troubled driving record, there was more to the story. Our further investigation revealed that the teenager was working at the time of the accident. This19 year old worked part time for a tire shop. On that particular day, the manager asked their young employee to take his car (actually his mother's) and go pick up a tire from another tire shop. In fact, when the teenager took the right a way from our client he was on his way back to the shop with the tire. While getting $100,000 is often nice, upon investigation we located a million dollar additional policy.
There was nothing fancy about our research methods, just good old fashioned hard work. We asked questions, followed leads and didn't let "what probably happened" get in the way of our investigation.
If your lawyer is not willing to fully investigate all the possible means of recovery for your accident, consider making a switch to an attorney who is willing to ask the right questions and do the hard work.
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we look forward to the opportunity to work hard on your behalf, by asking the right questions and doing the proper investigation to maximize your recovery.