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Tuesday, 13 June 2017 00:00

Walmart is now on the hook for car accidents caused by its employees

Written by Jonathan Druckman

As the company attempts to compete with Amazon, Walmart has begun to test out a delivery program where store employees will deliver packages while driving to and from work.

Employees can join the program to earn extra cash and will be assigned delivery locations along their daily commute in order to minimize extra driving. The program has been tested at three locations, including, New Jersey. With over 90% of the U.S. population living within 10 miles of a Walmart, most people will notice the effects of the new program.

Under the law in New Jersey, Walmart will be responsible for any injuries caused due to the negligence of its employees, while making deliveries. The doctrine of Respondeat Superior literally translates to “let the master answer”. In the context of tort law, it means that a party has vicarious liability for the actions of their agents or employees if acts are committed within the scope of employment. For example, a truck driver who causes a crash while delivering goods will be considered acting within the scope of employment and the truck company will also be liable. It also allows a Plaintiff access to the deeper pockets of an employer to compensate for any injuries they may have sustained. Walmart made headlines last year when a fatigued commercial truck driver was involved in a collision with actor Tracy Morgan. Walmart settled this case for an undisclosed amount.

One of the reasons behind this law is to provide incentives to companies to encourage them to make diligent hiring decisions that will keep consumers safe. Trucking companies should be responsible for conducting background checks and should examine driving records before hiring an individual. Employers should have policies prohibiting dangerous activity. This law also encourages companies to keep track of their employees and to discipline them for poor decisions that they may make since the company may have to end up paying for accidents caused by their employees.

Walmart has approximately 4,700 stores and over 1 million employees. This is not the first time that the company has experimented with an unorthodox delivery system. Walmart currently partners with ride-sharing services in a few cities. In fact, Walmart has also been conducting a grocery pickup program where consumers can order online and then pick up their order at store parking lots. Walmart continues to expand its online business where sales were up 63% in Q1 of 2017.

Walmart representatives are quick to reiterate that the program is entirely optional and not part of the regular associate job. However, critics cite Walmart’s ongoing wage battles for how many employees may be forced to work longer hours for the extra compensation.

Labor experts are also quick to note that the new delivery program could lead to employees seeing the short end of the stick. Walmart should be responsible for reimbursing its employees for gas, car depreciation, and potential parking tickets, tolls, or other expenses its “drivers” may incur.

In this battle between Walmart and Amazon, consumers are hoping for prices to come down. While the details of the program have yet to be released, concerns of liability remain at the forefront of many experts’ mind. If you have been injured in an accident, or are injured while working, call 908-353-5850 to speak with one of our attorneys today. All consultations are always free.

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