In January 2017 Attorneys Jeff Taylor and Tyler Moore filed a lawsuit in Cook County on behalf of a client who had sustained life-altering injuries to her arms and legs in a head-on collision. The client’s insurance company offered only $50,000 to settle, even though our client had undergone multiple surgeries and lost more than a year of wages during recovery.
During our investigation of the collision we discovered that the defendant-driver had been traveling to a work-related seminar at the time of the crash. The insurance company claimed that the defendant was not “working” at the time of the crash and argued that her employer’s million-dollar insurance policy was unavailable to redress our client’s injuries. Thus, the insurance company claimed that the only available source of recovery was the small $50,000 insurance policy from the defendant-driver. In order to recover from the employer’s commercial general liability policy, we developed our case strategy toward proving that the defendant-driver had been within the “scope of her employment” at the time of the crash.
Generally, the law in Illinois is that when people are traveling to or from work, they are not within the scope of their employment. However, this is not a bright-line rule and Illinois employs a multi-factor test to determine whether an individual is within the scope of his or her employment. Illinois has adopted the Second Restatement of Agency, which provides three general criteria to guide a court’s determination regarding the scope of employment:
“(1) Conduct of a servant is within the scope of employment if, but only if:
(a) it is of the kind he is employed to perform;
(b) it occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits;
(c) it is actuated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the master . . . ”
See Bagent v. Blessing Care Corp., 224 Ill. 2d 154, 164 (2007). In addition to this factor-based analysis, Illinois courts have held that an employee who is paid for their time spent in travel is an exception to the “going and coming rule.” See Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Industrial Com., 86 Ill. 2d 534 (1981). Understanding the case law, we were able to craft a litigation strategy and obtain critical witness testimony to support our argument that the defendant-driver was acting within the scope of her employment, thereby triggering coverage under the employer’s $1,000,000 insurance policy. We argued that the defendant driver was directed by her employer to attend a mandatory training event that was dozens of miles away from defendant’s normal place of employment and found pay-stubs to support our theory that the defendant was “on the clock.”
In addition to the scope of employment argument, we also obtained a copy of the defendant-employer’s insurance policy to evaluate whether there was insurance coverage under a “non-owned auto” provision. Under the “non-owned auto” provision, we argued that employer’s insurance policy afforded coverage for the defendant’s vehicle because it was “used in connection with” the employer’s business. See First Chicago Ins. Co. v. Molda, 2015 IL App (1st) 140548.
After nearly two years of litigation, multiple depositions of witnesses and doctors, the insurance company tendered the “policy limits” nearly four months prior to trial. The bottom line is that if you have been in a seriously injured, we recommend finding diligent attorneys who are not willing to settle for bottom dollar. If you have any questions about your automobile accident case, contact our skilled litigation attorneys at Spesia & Taylor.