If you are injured in an accident while driving or riding in a company car, you may wonder who is liable for your medical bills, lost wages and other expenses as a result of the accident. Often, employees believe that since they are in the company car, their employer is always liable when they are injured in a car accident while driving or riding in a company-owned vehicle. However, this may not always be the case.
There is an old doctrine in the United States known as “respondeat superior,” or “vicarious liability.” The statute says that when an employee is performing the regular duties of their job, the employer is liable for the negligent actions of the employee. For instance, if you are driving a company car on the way to meet with a client, run a red light and injure someone else, your employer is still liable as you were performing duties in the scope of your employment. In order for this to be true, the activity must be sanctioned by your employer or so closely related to what you normally do that it would appear to be authorized. If you were on your way to an interview with another company in a vehicle owned by your current employer, for example, the company may not be liable as it would not have been a sanctioned activity.
As long as you are using the company vehicle to perform your regular job duties, you are entitled to Workers’ Compensation with very few exceptions. Even if the accident was your fault, your employer is required to provide coverage for medical bills, lost wages and other costs associated with the accident. Some states allow an employer to deny workers’ compensation coverage if you are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. After a car accident, your employer has the right to require a drug and alcohol test to confirm that you were not under the influence at the time of the accident. In fact, employees who hold a CDL license are required by federal mandate to submit to a drug and alcohol test after an accident. Not only does this protect the employer, it protects you as the driver from someone claiming at a later date that they “thought” you were under the influence.
Your employer may have a commercial liability policy that covers damages plus an amount for pain and suffering. Workers’ compensation only covers actual costs, like lost wages and medical bills. It does not allow for additional payment for pain and suffering. Unfortunately, if you are injured as an employee, you are only entitled to workers’ compensation and not liability coverage. However, if you are not an employee and are injured in a company vehicle, you could be eligible for pain and suffering coverage. This could relate to a client who is riding with an employee or someone injured in another vehicle.
If the accident was the fault of a driver in another vehicle, you are entitled to workers’ compensation and payment under the other driver’s liability insurance. This means that you would be eligible for payment for pain and suffering, but the payment will come from the other driver’s insurance, not your employer’s insurance. However, if you receive payment from the other driver’s insurance, you may be required to reimburse workers’ compensation. It is strongly advised that if you are injured in an accident while driving or riding in a company vehicle and that accident is the fault of the driver of the other vehicle that you contact a car accident legal attorney as soon as possible to preserve your rights.
Being injured in an accident while driving a company vehicle can be stressful. Not only are you in pain but you may be unable to work and are worried about supporting your family. It is critical to understand what rights you may have in order to protect them properly. It’s important you do your research to ensure you’re staying lawful in your dealings and getting the compensation you need to move forward.
Author Bio: Emma Sturgis is a freelance writer living in Boston, MA. When not writing, she enjoys reading and indoor rock climbing. Find her on Google +