Two men were killed and another seriously injured in a drunk driving accident in Mason County on Wednesday night. The drunk driver was driving a truck owned by a farm supply company and was not injured in the car wreck. One of the issues that will arise from this accident is who bears legal responsibility and who will have to pay the wrongful death compensation that the families of these men are entitled to. There is a doctrine in the law called respondeat superior, which holds an employer liable for the negligence of its employees in the course and scope of their employment. Most of the time, when an employee is given a company vehicle and gets into an Illinois motor vehicle accident, his employer will be held liable. In cases where the employee is driving drunk, the insurance company for the employer will deny liability, saying that the drunk driving employee was not hired to drive while intoxicated, violated company policies, etc., and was therefore outside the scope of his employment. That is a defense that the farm supply company is sure to rely upon.However, if the employee was permitted to drive the vehicle, a lesser evidentiary standard than acting in the scope of employment, then the insurance which covers the vehicle should also cover the drunk driving employee. However, these families can be sure that the insurance company will try to dodge responsibility by claiming that the coverage on the vehicle was voided when he drove the company vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, something which he was doubtless forbidden from doing.
Wrongful death cases are serious cases under the simplest of circumstances because the losses sustained by the families are so great. However, in a case like this, where there may be grounds for a financially viable defendant or insurer to avoid laibility, these families would do well to hire an experienced Illinois wrongful death lawyer to protect their interests.