What happens if you get into an auto accident while driving a company vehicle? What if you are in an auto accident where the other driver is in a company vehicle?
The ordinary rules of negligence and compensation may not apply when a company vehicle is involved in an auto accident, depending on how the accident happened, whether the driver of the company vehicle was at fault, and whether the driver of the company vehicle was “on the clock” when the accident happened.
Below, we’ll look at some possible scenarios involving auto accidents in a company vehicle and how you can get compensated for your injuries, whether you were at fault in the accident or not.
Auto Accident in a Company Vehicle Caused by Someone Else
Suppose the boss asks you to take the company truck down to the parts store to pick up supplies that you need on the job. You grab the keys, hop in, and head into town. As you are driving through an intersection, you see a car coming towards you and they are not slowing down…
You hit the brakes, but it is too late – they run the red light and slam into your company vehicle’s front end, sending you spinning through the intersection until you come to rest against a light pole.
Who is at fault and who pays for your damages?
The other driver caused the accident by running the red light – they had a duty to follow the traffic laws to keep you and other motorists safe, they breached that duty, and you were injured as a proximate cause of their negligence.
You can file suit against the other driver, and your sources of compensation – for your own injuries and the property damage to your employer’s vehicle – may include:
- The other driver’s insurance policy or policies,
- Possibly your own auto policy’s uninsured or underinsured coverage if the other driver does not have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance,
- Possibly your employers’ commercial auto policy or general liability policy,
- Any policy riders that you or your employer have purchased that would cover auto accidents while handling company business, and
- Workers’ compensation insurance through your employer.
But what if the accident was your fault? Can you get compensation? What about the other driver if they were injured in an accident that you caused in a company vehicle?
Auto Accident in a Company Vehicle When You are at Fault
If you caused the accident, you may still be eligible for compensation for your injuries, just not from the other driver. If you are an employee (not an independent contractor) and if you were acting within “the course and scope of your employment” at the time of the accident, you should be covered by workers’ compensation.
What about the other driver’s injuries? You are liable for any damage or injuries that were proximately caused by the accident, just as you would be if you were driving your own vehicle on your own time.
The other driver may file suit against both you and your employer if you were driving a company vehicle and you were “on the clock” when the accident happened, and they can attempt to collect compensation from both your insurance policy and your employer.
Respondeat Superior and Employer Liability
Respondeat superior is a legal doctrine that makes an employer liable for torts (like auto accidents) that are committed by their employees if the tort (auto accident) happens within the scope of their employment.
What does that mean?
If you are involved in an auto accident in a company vehicle, while driving to the store to pick up supplies for work, at the direction of your boss, and the accident was your fault, then your employer is probably going to be liable for any damages that you caused.
There are also many situations where the employer would not be liable – for example:
- If you were taking a “detour” to run a personal errand or to say hello to a friend who lived nearby,
- If you were intoxicated when the accident happened,
- If you intentionally rammed another vehicle in a fit of homicidal road rage, or
- If you are an independent contractor driving your own vehicle when the accident happened.
If the employer cannot be held liable, however, the at-fault driver is still responsible for the damages caused by the wreck.
Does Workers’ Comp Cover an Auto Accident in a Company Vehicle?
Workers’ compensation may cover your injuries if you are in an auto accident in a company vehicle, regardless of who was at fault if the accident happened within the course and scope of your employment.
You should be covered by workers’ comp if:
- You were running an errand for the boss,
- You are a delivery driver,
- In some cases, you were traveling to or from your place of employment,
- Your job involves transportation, or
- Driving is a part of your job for any reason and you are “on the clock” when the accident happens.
But, if you are involved in an auto accident in a company vehicle that was caused by another driver, are you limited to workers’ compensation or can you file a separate lawsuit against the other driver?
Third-Party Claims – You May Have a Lawsuit and a Workers’ Comp Claim
If you are involved in an accident that was caused by a third party (not your employer) while you are on the job, you may have both a lawsuit against the third party and a workers’ compensation claim.
When this happens, you can file both claims. You might want to do that because workers’ compensation claims are limited:
- Workers comp does not cover damage to your vehicle;
- It does not compensate you for pain and suffering or other non-economic damages; and
- It does not allow you to make a claim for punitive damages.
Workers’ compensation is not fault-based. This means that, even if you lose your civil lawsuit against the third party, you will still be compensated by the workers’ comp claim. If you win both claims, you may have to reimburse the workers’ compensation insurance company from the proceeds of the third-party claim, but you lose nothing.
Auto Accident Attorneys in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you were involved in an auto accident in a company vehicle, you may be able to receive compensation regardless of fault and you may have multiple claims for negligence or workers’ compensation.
Your auto accident attorney at Coastal Law will investigate the accident, identify all possible sources of recovery, and help you to get full and fair compensation whenever possible.
Schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case by calling (843) 488-5000 or filling out our online form.