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Lawsuit Filed Against Vehicle Owner, Worker, In Work Injury Death


One worker was killed by another while servicing a vehicle for an oil change. The family of the slain worker has since filed a lawsuit against the worker who was operating the vehicle and the vehicle’s owner. If you lend your car to your kids or another individual, and they cause an accident, then you’re liable. An attorney representing the family of the slain worker has filed two claims against the vehicle’s owner and the other worker.

According to the lawsuit, the deceased worker was attempting to perform an oil change on a Jeep when the vehicle lurched forward and crushed him to death. The other worker had never taken his driver’s test, did not have a license to operate a vehicle, and had never used a manual transmission before.

Here’s what you need to know. Since the death occurred while on the job, the worker’s family cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit against the employer, who contributed all of the negligence here. The employer allowed a worker to attempt to operate a vehicle he did not know how to operate. This resulted in the death of another worker. However, workers’ compensation immunity prevents families from filing wrongful death lawsuits against employers. So the family is stuck filing the lawsuit against the vehicle’s owner.

Herein lies the rub. While vicarious liability does apply in these situations, the company’s insurer has been ordered to indemnify the vehicle owner by the court if the vehicle owner is found negligent. That means that the lawsuit will be allowed to proceed under a theory of vicarious liability, but the vehicle owner won’t have to pay the judgment.

What happens next? 

The attorney representing the plaintiff managed to do an end-around the workers’ compensation immunity by filing suit against the owner of the vehicle and then getting the slain worker’s own company to pay the judgment on the vehicle owner’s behalf. A court has ruled that this can move forward, but the insurer is unlikely to simply pay the judgment. They will probably try to block the claim that they are vicariously liable for the injury. If the claim was filed against the other worker, then employer’s immunity would take over. So, this is a bit of legal maneuvering that allows the family to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit as opposed to filing a death benefits claim under workers’ compensation.

Is the vehicle owner negligent? 

No, of course not. When you give your vehicle to a mechanic’s shop for service, you expect that the mechanics have the ability and know-how to operate the vehicle safely. A vehicle owner would have a duty of care if they lent the vehicle to someone else, but in this case, the vehicle was not lent at all. But if the vehicle owner was not named in the lawsuit, then the family would not be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. They would only be able to seek workers’ compensation as a remedy.

Talk to a Miami Work Injury Attorney

 Payer Law files workers’ compensation and personal injury claims against negligent third-parties. Call our Miami personal injury lawyers today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.


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