Ten people were injured when a bus, after being hit by an ambulance, crashed into a storefront in Decatur. Police say the ambulance driver in the situation had been sleeping, and was cited in the crash. The brunt of the impact fell upon the driver of the bus, who fortunately only suffered minor injuries. The income tax services office into which the bus careened was devastated, but fortunately no employees, or customers were inside at the time, as the office was still closed. Additionally no sidewalk pedestrians were struck.
It is not clear how serious the ten injuries reported are, but we do know that certain passengers on the bus were employees of the university, while others were students. The case presents a number of interesting (if hypothetical) issues related to workers’ compensation.
Are the University Employees on Board the Bus Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
The bus driver was clearly on duty and therefore any injuries he suffered would be covered by workers’ compensation. However, what about the employees on the bus? Were they “on duty?” This is an interesting question of fact on which we cannot speculate without more information. However, if they were on duty, they would certainly be eligible for workers’ compensation. If this was merely their standard commute to work from home, then they would likely not be covered by workers’ compensation. The difference in this case is likely not very significant, since ultimately a third party is liable for any tort damages in the case. However, if the bus driver had been at fault, this would present a very significant question.
Under the doctrine of respondeat superior the university (the employer of the workers) would have been liable in tort had they been off duty and had the bus driver been at fault. On the other hand, they would not have been liable had the workers been on duty, but they would have still owed workers’ compensation. In that case, if anyone had incurred serious damages above what workers’ compensation would address, the question of whether the workers were on duty or off duty would be a major issue of debate because it would decide whether the workers could then sue in tort for their full damages or whether they must settle for workers’ compensation. This issue would present itself because of the exclusive remedy doctrine, which states that employers are immune from tort liability when workers’ compensation is involved.
Is the Ambulance Driver Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
The question in relation to the ambulance driver, who was apparently not seriously injured, would be whether his negligent driving would make him ineligible for workers’ compensation if he had been injured. While he was clearly negligent in driving under fatigue so as to fall asleep at the wheel, there is no indication he had been under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Furthermore, it may be that his employer was at fault for putting him behind the wheel while fatigued.
In general, being negligent in causing your own injuries does not render you ineligible for workers’ compensation. Employee fault is only grounds for denial of workers’ compensation benefits when that fault is related to intoxication or deliberate and intentional actions (such as violence or horseplay). In this case, then, unless some other factor is in play that we do not know about, the driver of the ambulance would likely be entitled to workers’ compensation for his injuries. That does not rule out other adverse employment actions, but these are not guaranteed. In any event, the ambulance company is likely to be held liable for all damages related to the case, including both the property damage and the injuries. Whether they were negligent in allowing the driver to drive under these conditions is a question of fact that will matter in terms of their total share of the responsibility, but even if the driver alone was negligent, they will still be held liable in all likelihood.
Would Employees in the Tax Office be Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Had there been employees in the tax office at the time, they would be entitled to workers’ compensation for any injuries suffered in the incident despite the absence of any fault on the part of their employer because the workers’ compensation system requires payment regardless of fault. That said, they would also have had a third party remedy in tort against the ambulance company. Their employer would then have a right of subrogation against any funds recovered, provided that the injured workers were made whole by the settlement.
Contact an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
If you have been injured in a workplace accident, you have a right to compensation. However, as the incident described above illustrates, some cases can be very complicated. Your claim may not always be a straightforward and simple one, and the competing interests in your case may mean that your employer seeks to oppose your claim. You need a skilled and experienced workers’ compensation attorney to sort out the complexities and guide your case to a just and efficient resolution. The attorneys at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers know how to do just this. Do not be overwhelmed. Entrust your case to our experienced attorneys and let us handle it for you. Contact us today for a free case review.