Who is Liable for Employee Car Accidents?

Business owners and managers routinely ask employees to run errands or carry out tasks off site. If you work in an office setting, for example, you may ask an employee to drive to a local store to pick up stationery supplies. These types of situations occur thousands of times a day all over the country, but most people don’t consider the legal implications of what happens if an accident occurs. 

With more than 6 million car accidents occurring in the U.S. every year, it’s not particularly unusual for employees to be involved in collisions while they’re performing their duties. However, you might be surprised to learn that employers can be liable for any injuries that are sustained, or any damage which occurs, even if they were using their own vehicle at the time. 

What Caused the Accident?

To determine liability, you’ll need to know exactly who or what caused the accident. If you’ve failed to maintain company vehicles and this lack of maintenance caused an accident, for example, your business could be liable for the consequences. 

However, if another road user was responsible for the accident, they are likely to be deemed liable. In such cases, your employee could take action against them if they suffered injuries due to their actions. If the employee was using their own vehicle, they could also make a claim against the responsible party for damage that’s been caused. Alternatively, if a company vehicle was being used, you may be able to take action against the person responsible too. 

Is Your Employee Responsible?

If your employee inadvertently caused an accident on the road while performing their duties, liability can be a little more complicated. If other people were injured because of your employee, they’ll want to take legal action in order to obtain compensation, but who will be held liable? Perhaps surprisingly, both your company and your employee could be legally liable for the incident. 

If your employee was using his or her own vehicle and has insurance, the injured parties may take action against them directly. However, making a claim for a workplace accident or car accident against an employer can be more lucrative. When your employee is performing their duties, you can be held liable for their negligent actions due to a legal concept known as vicarious liability. Essentially, this means you could be held responsible for an accident caused by your employee when they’re undertaking errands off site. 

Getting Specialist Legal Advice

As you can see, issues concerning liability for employee car accidents can be complicated. Due to this, it’s important to seek specialist legal advice from experienced attorneys if you find yourself in this situation. Furthermore, obtaining advice prior to an accident can help you to ensure you have the right setup and insurance if your staff will regularly be operating off site. 

While a good insurance policy should cover your costs after an accident, leaving yourself open to accident liability is a costly risk. By taking a proactive approach and understanding what factors could make you liable, you can protect your company, your workers and your reputation.

Annika Bansal

Annika "The Chick Geek" is the founder of AnnikaBansal.com. Small Business Sense shares small business ideas, tips and resources for independent Entrepreneurs and Small Business owners.