Crashed Company Car: How Much Trouble am I In?
After you have been involved in a car accident in your company car, you might not only be wondering about the consequences you will face from your employer but from injuring another person. When you get into an accident in your own vehicle during work hours it is unlikely that your employer’s insurance company will pay out, even if you are using your car to complete your job requirements. But if you don’t own the car and it belongs to your employer, then it will be handled differently.
There is an important legal theory that you will want to understand as you proceed in your car accident suit. Respondeat superior is a Latin term used a lot by accident lawyers that translates to “let the master answer,” and means that a party is liable for the actions of its agents. What that means in practical terms is that an employer is liable for acts of employees performed during their employment. If you are driving a company car to complete a task or to do anything within the scope of your employment, such as making deliveries or driving to meet clients off-site, then most likely your employer’s commercial vehicle insurance policy will pay the damages. This is what is known as vicarious liability.
There are some limitations, however. It depends on what is actually written in the employment agreement or contract. If you use the company vehicle to run a personal errand on a work trip, for example, then that would be handled differently. For example, if a crew went on an overnight trip and one of the employees used the company truck to make a run to the drugstore, then those details would be important in the case. Another example when you would be liable is if you were driving recklessly, such as under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You could also face serious criminal charges or even DUI charges. This is why it’s important to speak with an attorney about your accident.
Who pays out in the accident?
If you were involved in a car accident while operating a company vehicle, then your company may be held liable even if you were partly or totally at fault for the accident. This means that your employer’s insurance will pay out damages to the injured parties, including the other driver, passenger(s), pedestrian(s), cyclist(s) or other bystanders), instead of your own car insurance. If you were also injured in the accident in your company’s car, even if you were at fault, you could still receive damages from your employer’s insurance company.
An issue that comes up in these cases is that the victim will also try to file a suit against the driver, and request that their personal auto insurance also pay out. Typically an employer’s auto insurance contains protections for employees against litigation brought forth by a third party, and also protects the employee from being sued by a third party.
Another issue that does come up is if you are injured by an at-fault driver who does not have enough insurance to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. You would need an attorney to help you file a worker’s compensation case so that your damages can be covered.
Steps You Should Take After An Accident
When you get into an accident using a company car it is important to follow a lot of the same steps you would if you got into a car accident in your own personal vehicle. The first of these is to check on any other passengers in your vehicle and, if there aren’t any or if they are fine, then you must proceed to check on the other driver, their passengers if any, and any other affected persons, such as pedestrians or cyclists. Immediately dial 911 and inform the operator of the condition of each of the people you have checked on. While you are in the presence of the other driver or other affected people, it is important to not cast blame or admit fault for the accident. In fact, you want your interaction with the other parties to be minimal and limited to only what is necessary such as exchanging your:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Auto insurance information
Then, it’s best that you turn to a seasoned and knowledgeable personal injury attorney to handle your case. A personal injury attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve and represent you in court.