What Happens if You Get in an Accident in the Company Vehicle?
Driving a company car can be both a benefit and a burden. The perks include not paying for gas out of your own pocket and not worrying about putting miles or wear and tear on your own car. But what happens when you are involved in an accident in a company car? Understanding who is at fault and must pay can be confusing.
If you are involved in an accident in a company car and your employer purchased commercial auto insurance, the commercial auto insurance provider will usually pay any valid claims related to the accident, as long as the employee was using the vehicle properly at the time of the accident. Most of the time, your employer will deal with the insurance company directly, though you may have to answer questions or provide other evidence upon request of the insurance company.
If you, the employee, are responsible in terms of liability, you may be required to pay the company back. Otherwise, in most cases, an employer will be responsible for the actions of their employees under the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior,” also known as “vicarious liability.” This means that employers are generally responsible for the actions of their employees, as long as an employee is acting within the scope of employment.
Defining actions that are “within the scope of employment” can be difficult. For an act to be within the course of employment, it must either be authorized by the employer or be so closely related to an authorized act that an employer should be held responsible. For example, a truck driver making a delivery during business hours fails to stop at a red light and hits a pedestrian. Here, the employer will likely be liable because the employee was acting within the scope of his duties and wasn’t committing any crimes.
If an employee is in an accident while using the company car to run personal errands, even if it’s during regular business hours, that employee may be personally liable for any injuries or property damage to others, because they were not acting within the scope of employment.
When it comes to independent contractors, the hallmark of their relationship is that the person engaged in the work has the exclusive control of the manner of performing it. While control of the work is an important factor, other considerations include the nature of the work or occupation, the skill required for performance, whether the one employed is engaged in a distinct occupation or business, which party supplies the tools, whether payment is by the time or by the job; whether work is part of the regular business of the employer, and whether there is the right to terminate the engagement at any time.
No matter what, the courts will always need a thorough recitation of the facts of the incident in order to determine who is at fault. Even if the accident involves a company car, it is important that the driver remember the basic details of the event. If you are involved in an accident, make sure you obtain the other driver’s license number, insurance policy information and a police report. If there were witnesses, collect their contact information and any statements they may be able to offer. Providing all available information will give the court a clear path forward when determining liability, which can make the situation easier for both the employer and employee.
If you’ve been in a car accident in your company car, you may need legal assistance. There are many factors to consider, from who is at fault to insurance company concerns, but the best way to handle the situation is to get your case reviewed by an experienced personal injury attorney today.
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