It is generally understood that in the event that a company vehicle causes a wreck, the company insurance will cover the claim. These claims are like many others in that they can be restricted by the policy limits on the vehicle's insurance.
One often overlooked and misunderstood legal concept is that the employer can be directly liable for its failures which ultimately led to the circumstances contributing to the cause of the car wreck. This is the cause of action called “negligent hiring, training, and retention.”
What Is the Basis for a Negligent Hiring, Training, and Retention Claim?
The basis for a negligent hiring, training, and retention claim requires proof of the employer's awareness of their employee's dangerous driving behaviors that caused the accident in question.
A plaintiff must demonstrate that the employer, in some way, knew that the driver has exhibited the behavior before, had a habit of doing so, expressed in some way that they would act in such a way. The evidence presented by the plaintiff must exhibit the employer's awareness of the behavior, and the behavior's link to the accident and injury.
Example of Negligent Hiring, Training, and Retention
If an accident was caused by speeding on the part of the company driver, and the employer was aware of their employee's previous speeding tickets, that awareness is grounds for a negligent hiring, training, and retention claim. The employer knew the driver had a history of speeding, yet allowed them to drive a company car and put others in danger.
Negligent Hiring, Training, and Retention Law in Georgia
Georgia law recognizes the principle of respondeat superior. Essentially, there is an established assumption of employer liability for their employee's actions while on the job.
If “the employer has admitted respondeat superior liability and the plaintiff is not seeking punitive damages, the claims for negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention are merely duplicative of the respondeat superior claim,” as referenced in City of Kingsland v. Grantham, 342 Ga.App. 696, 699 (2017).
A plaintiff must prove negligence by the employer in order to create a case for the reception of punitive damages. As stated in Georgia Code Title 51. Torts § 51-12-5.1, “Punitive damages may be awarded only in such tort actions in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant's actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”