Driving a personal car vs. driving a company car; you may argue for and against each of these situations. And to be practical, both pose significant pros and cons. It’s a matter of personal judgment to weigh both options; either way, you are going to get some benefit as well as a shared burden. It’s a package as a whole, which cannot be bought with segregation.
Setting aside some of the major benefits of a company car, such as company-provided gas expense, repair, maintenance, or wear and tear, you should focus on the insurance aspect of the company car. What will happen if and when you are involved in an accident riding a company car? That’s the big question to think about, and to your luck, we have adequately addressed all aspects of such an unfortunate scenario. If so, it happens.
As an employee with a company car, a much important economic-focused question for you may be whether you’ll be held responsible for paying damages in case of an accident or does it lie in your employer’s domain. A simple answer to this will be accessing the condition and circumstances at the time of the crash. You may find several important aspects of the law that one should be familiar with to explore the possible outcome of a case.
Get along with us on this informative article, and all questions in your mind will be sorted out.
What Does Vicarious Liability Mean?
Vicarious liability means holding someone responsible for someone else’s actions, which can also be termed as respondeat superior.
On account of a mishap in a company car, an employer is held responsible for the actions of the employee who drove the car (because the employee is an agent of the employer when driving for work).
Issue of Fault
Accidents (car crashes) are often complicated. Despite under the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior,” when you’re driving a company vehicle, legal liability issues can be a little more complex to analyze. Plus, laws of comparative negligence still apply. The employee must be at fault for the accident for the other side to look for your employer to recover.
Lawyers happily take up such cases. They usually try hard to look for deep pockets, as they know that your employer is vicariously liable for the crash. But you don’t need to worry about your employer being held responsible unless you are actually at fault for the crash.
When Does Vicarious Liability Apply?
Employee’s scope of employment (when the accident occurs) sets the boundary for vicarious liability of the employer. To explain in simple terms, let me present you with an example. Suppose you are a service provider and working on behalf of your employer. On the way, you accidentally break the signal and run on a stop sign resulting in a hit and injury accident. In this scenario, the other party can bring your employer to be held accountable for your actions. Most likely, your employer will be liable for the damages as you were in pursuit of a job on his behalf, i.e., acting as an employer’s agent.
Scenarios Where Vicarious Liability is Applicable
If an employee is in an accident while using the company car, for traveling to and from an assigned job, heading towards a training session, running errands for work or any other place on the directions of the employer, etc., vicarious liability may apply.
Scenarios Where Vicarious Liability isn’t applicable
Employer will be out of bounds for vicarious liability in scenarios, such as:
- I was driving to or from work, training, or stopping at a friend’s house who lives nearby on the way.
- When you’re drunk driving or you’re on the hook, or you stop at the park for a nap
- Any sorts of irrelevant stops such as for coffee on your way to assigned job etc.
Workers Compensation and Liability Insurance
If you happen to be in a company car accident and the other driver is at fault for the collision, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. You need to figure out how your worker compensation may apply in your particular scenario.
When the other driver doesn’t have an insurance policy, or it’s not sufficient to pay up the damages, you may get a lot more from worker’s compensation than standing against the other driver. You just have to read your situation well and act accordingly. Your employer, as well as your lawyer, is on your side, can solidify your case more adequately, so you need to present the facts to your well-wishers with utmost honesty.
In general, employees are not criminally liable to their employer for general negligence. Employers assume the risk that their employees might cause an accident. However, there may be some exceptions, like if you’re drunk driving or if you’re using the company vehicle for personal purposes.
Determining Fault & Vicarious Liability
In case the dispute goes to trial, a judge or jury will have to decide both fault and vicarious liability, after legitimate questioning like where you were going and what you were doing in the trip that led to the accident, etc. You will need to testify to such questions.
Lawsuits are rarely ideal. However, if you have insurance, then the insurer should be willing to pay for an attorney. If you were injured in the crash, you might find and hire your own lawyer.
On the other hand, if the employer and the other party jointly agree on the facts of the case, it comes down to how the law applies to those facts. In that case, the judge can decide the issue before it even gets to the jury.
The ideal recommendation would be to avoid every scenario which leads to such troublesome situations, and even if it happens, one must not be in a questionable condition to give away a lead in favor of the other party’s case.
To untangle legal liability issues in case of an accident in a company car, including whether vicarious liability or comparative negligence law applies, you should immediately hire an experienced accident attorney with a proven record.