Driving a company car can be a real benefit, but what if you have an accident in a company car? Who pays? And what if you’re injured? You are about to learn these answers and more.
The answers to questions about accidents in company cars depend on whether the driver was acting within the “scope” of that driver’s employment duties at the time of the crash.
Under the ancient legal doctrine of “respondeat superior” – vicarious liability – employers, in most cases, are responsible for the actions of employees who are “on the clock.”
HOW DOES VICARIOUS LIABILITY WORK?
For instance, if a delivery driver is making his usual daily deliveries, runs a stop sign, and injures a pedestrian, the employer in that instance is probably liable.
Why? Because the driver was acting within the scope of his regular employment duties.
Vicarious liability legally transfers an employee’s liability to his or her employer, just as if the employer had committed the negligent act.
WHEN DOES VICARIOUS LIABILITY APPLY?
But whether the principle of vicarious liability applies in any particular traffic collision will hinge on these three factors:
1. Was the driver an employee or independent contractor?
2. Did the negligence and the accident happen “within the scope” of the driver’s duties?
3. Was the negligence unintended or intentional?
In most situations, employers are liable only for the actions of employees but not the actions of independent contractors.
WHAT IF YOU ARE INJURED BY A NEGLIGENT INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR?
Thus, if an independent contractor injures someone, while driving a company vehicle, vicarious liability probably will not apply, and the employer will probably not be held liable.
If the driver is an employee rather than an independent contractor, defining the “scope of employment” can be more difficult.
A number of factors must be considered including:
1. the job description of the driver
2. the time, location, and nature of the driver’s behavior
3. the amount of discretion and freedom the driver has to perform job duties
4. the intention of the driver at the time of the accident
DOES THE EMPLOYER’S AUTO INSURANCE EXTEND TO EMPLOYEES?
Another key consideration is what type of automobile insurance coverage the employer carries.
Some companies have collision coverage which covers employees; others don’t. If you are asked to drive a company-owned vehicle, clarify the coverage with your employer – before you drive.
Even when employees are driving company cars on the clock, there are exceptions to vicarious liability – times when the employee is not acting within the scope of employment duties.
WHEN DOES VICARIOUS LIABILITY NOT APPLY?
Let’s say that a salesperson driving a company car takes a client to lunch, has one drink too many, causes a crash while returning to the office, and ends up charged with DUI with injury.
Obviously, committing a crime – driving under the influence – is not in the scope of a salesperson’s employment duties, so the employer has no liability in such a circumstance.
If you take an employer’s vehicle to run personal errands with no work-related purpose, either during or apart from “the clock,” the employer has no liability in this circumstance, either.
In such a case, it doesn’t matter if the employee is on company time. If an employee is acting in a personal capacity – and not at the instruction of an employer – the employer is not liable.
IN THESE ACCIDENTS, WHERE CAN YOU TURN IF YOU’RE INJURED?
If you were injured while you were driving a company car, or if you were injured by someone else who was driving a company car, you’ll need compensation for your injury and lost wages.
In central Florida, you’ll need the sound advice and aggressive legal representation that an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney can provide.
If you were injured by a negligent driver who was driving a company car and performing his or her job duties, you may have a claim against both the driver and that driver’s employer.
And if you’ve been seriously injured, you’ll need every cent of compensation that’s available.
HOW CAN A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER HELP?
Having the details of your case reviewed for free by a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer is the smartest first move you can make. After any crash, a number of factors must be considered.
Your attorney will review your case, determine who is liable for your injuries, and fight aggressively for the compensation – as well as the justice – you need and deserve.
If you are the person driving a company car, and you are injured by another negligent driver while operating within the scope of your job duties, you probably qualify to file a personal injury claim against the driver who injured you.
In any accident involving a company vehicle, if the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment duties, the employer cannot compel that employee to pay any damages.
WHAT IF AN EMPLOYEE INTENTIONALLY CAUSES INJURY?
However, if the employee’s behavior which causes a collision was reckless behavior or in violation of company rules, the employee can be fired.
A company generally is not responsible for an employee’s intentional wrongdoing.
For example, if a driver in a company vehicle intentionally hits a specific person – in an act of road rage, or as a hate crime, for example – the company will probably not have liability.
In such a case, once again, a driver was acting outside the scope of his or her employment.
AFTER AN ACCIDENT IN A COMPANY CAR, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO FIRST?
Still, after any accident involving an employee driving a company car, the employee should speak at once with his or her manager or supervisor to understand the company’s position.
To determine liability, the courts need a precise recounting of the facts. Thus, it is imperative for the driver to remember the basic details of the event.
If an accident happens, summon medical help if anyone’s injured. Then call the police.
Be sure that you obtain the other driver’s license and license plate numbers, insurance policy details and information, and – when it becomes available – a copy of the police accident report.
Take plenty of photographs, and if there were witnesses, try to get their contact information. Later, you may or may not need their statements or testimony.
Report the accident to your employer – if you’re driving a company car – and follow your company’s own procedures for an accident.
IF YOU’RE INJURED BY A NEGLIGENT DRIVER, WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
If you’ve been injured in central Florida, after you’ve contacted your employer and obtained medical treatment, discuss your case at once with an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney.
If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, you have the right to an attorney, compensation, and justice. If you’ve been injured, exercise your rights and get the legal help you need – right away.