What Happens When You Get Into An Accident in a Company-Owned Vehicle
Thursday, April 27, 2023 9:30 AM
Accidents involving company-owned vehicles are more frequent than you might think. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the United States. In 2019, work-related crashes cost employers $39 billion in settlements.
Whether the wreck in a company-owned vehicle was serious or minor adds to the already complicated process of filing a personal accident claim. It also begs the question: Who is responsible for work-related car accidents? What is the employer’s responsibility for an employee’s accident?
Work-Related Car Accident: Who is Responsible?
After a work-related car accident, an employer is often responsible if the employee acted within their employment scope. However, the “going and coming” rule prevents employers from bearing liability for accidents when their employees are not on-the-clock. This includes commuting times, as well as lunch breaks. However, exceptions do exist. Therefore, speaking to an experienced car accident attorney to discuss your unique situation is crucial.
Suppose you were in an accident while driving a commercial vehicle for work. According to vicarious liability, also known as “respondeat superior,” Latin for “let the master answer,” an employer is liable for the actions of their employees. Under vicarious liability, an employer can be found at fault for any employee’s negligent actions during work or while the employee drives for work-related purposes.
However, there are limits to this coverage. For example, company insurance will not cover you, and your employer may be exempt from liability if:
- You were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- You committed a crime during the trip (yes, even speeding counts!)
- You were running personal errands (or a “frolic” in legal jargon)
- You were an independent contractor using your personal vehicle (i.e., food delivery drivers, outside sales, caregivers/in-home nurses)
Many employers have a company vehicle accident policy, but policy specifics vary from business to business. For example, if your employer owns the car you’re driving, the company insures that vehicle. Therefore, if you are found at fault for an accident, your employer’s insurance will also compensate the third-party claimants and protect you from being sued. Additionally, if you cause a car accident while driving a company vehicle and your employer has workers’ comp coverage, you’ll still receive benefits because fault does not affect workers’ comp.
However, you’re out of luck if your negligence caused an accident in a commercial vehicle and your employer does not have workers’ comp coverage. You will have to pay for your expenses. If a reckless driver hits you with a company vehicle, you can file a personal injury claim against them, and their auto liability insurance should pay for your damages.
When Is an Employer Liable for a Company Car Accident?
An employer may be liable for a work-related vehicle accident if they:
- Failed to properly maintain their fleets of work vehicles
- Did not provide enough training
- Did not require proper licensing or certification
Employers can also be held responsible if they pressure their employees to violate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations or break the law. Let’s say, for example, that you are a delivery driver, and your employer has overloaded your schedule, violating the hours-of-service rules. In addition, your employer may be liable if you are exhausted due to this schedule and fall asleep behind the wheel, causing an accident.
Employers must also ensure that company vehicles are safe to operate, which involves performing safety inspections and routine maintenance on the fleet. Your employer may be liable if you were driving a company car and had an accident due to mechanical issues. Most work-related vehicle crashes are preventable with proper training, fleet maintenance, and caution.
To protect their finances, employers may try to dodge the blame or accuse their employees of acting irresponsibly or “outside the scope of employment.” Many companies will require drug testing for drivers recently involved in accidents. They may also investigate your driving record for a history of previous accidents.
What to Do After an Accident with a Company Vehicle
Every car accident is different, but the aftermath of a company car crash can be especially tricky. After a work-related accident, follow these steps:
- Call for help. You will need to call 911 to get medical attention and the police to the crash site. An accident report from the police can be critical evidence in a car accident case.
- Collect information and take photos. Photograph the scene of the accident and any vehicles damaged. Take pictures of the accident scene and damaged vehicles.
- Complete an accident report. You should get a police report and ensure that the company that owns the vehicle has completed an accident report.
- Determine fault. The most important step after an accident is to determine who caused it. There may be multiple at-fault parties. By collecting evidence, your car accident lawyer will help you determine fault.
- Find out who will pay. Once you have determined who is at fault, you can determine which insurance policies will cover the victim’s expenses.
Attorneys You Can Talk To!
Accidents happen, and when they do, you and your family will have questions about your rights and their impact on your life. If you’ve been involved in an accident involving a company vehicle, the attorneys at Doran, Beam & Farrell understand your concerns and are ready to answer any questions or address concerns that you may have about your claim.
To schedule a FREE case evaluation, call or text us at (727) 846-1000 or complete our online contact form.