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Who is liable: the taxi driver or the taxi company?

You may often hear jokes about taxi drivers operating their vehicles in a quasi-crazed fashion in order to squeeze as many fares as possible into a single shift. While such stories typically involve a slight degree of exaggeration, taxi drivers in New Orleans may drive aggressively to accommodate the demands of business. While you might appreciate that when waiting for a cab, the same may not be said if you are a passenger. If such aggressive driving results in an accident, you may be wondering who is liable: The driver or the taxi company? 

Your first thought may be that only the driver can be held responsible for his or her actions. Then again, he or she may only be driving at the request of the taxi company. The Louisiana Supreme Court has helped to put an end to this confusion by ruling that there are exceptions to the rule stating that vehicle owners cannot be held liable for damages caused by another operating their vehicles. These exceptions are: 

  • If the driver is on a mission for the owner of the vehicle
  • If the owner was negligent in entrusting the vehicle to an incompetent driver
  • If the driver is an agent or employee of the owner

Oftentimes, a taxi company will try to absolve itself of liability by claiming its drivers are independent contractors and not technically employees. In such a case, you may need to establish proof that both sides were involved in a joint venture. This can be done by showing that a driver secured franchise rights from the company, that the company owned the taxicab itself, or that it was holding out as the cab operator (including signs and other elements on the cab that gave the impression the driver was its employee). 

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