Most people recognize their rights when it comes to being involved in an accident in their own cars, but what if the accident were to happen in a company car? Who is required to pay for the damages? Can you be held personally liable or is it your boss’s responsibility? Unfortunately company car liability is a very complicated legal issue that involves a number of factors in determining who pays for damages. If your job involves driving a company car, it would behoove you to be aware of what rights and liabilities you have in the event of an accident.
Car accidents happen on a daily basis, and if your job involves driving around in a company car regularly your chance of being involved in a collision unfortunately increases. . Whether driving a taxi, delivering items in a company truck or van, or any other such activity that requires you to drive around in a company car each day, it is important to arm yourself with the right knowledge in the event an accident occurs while you are on the job.
In the law, there is a concept called the “respondent superior doctrine”. According to this doctrine an employer may be held liable for the actions of employees during their employment – the employer may be held vicariously liable if in fact you have an accident while working on the job. What does vicarious liability mean for an employee? It simply means that if you have a car accident in your company car, your employer might be held liable if you were performing work duties within the scope of your job when the accident occurred. Sounds simple enough, however,it isn’t always clear if the incident happened during the course of employment, at which point, the courts get to decide who is responsible. How does a court make this determination? It does so by determining if a the time the accident occurs you were doing job duties or were what the law has coined taking a “detour” or “frolic”.
So what is the difference between a “detour” and a “frolic”? A detour happens when an employee is performing duties that fall within the scope of their job, but takes a slight detour. Whether this detour is stopping to get gas or taking the car to have a flat tire changed, the employee is still in the process of performing their duties. An employer is liable for the damages if the accident were to happen during a detour.
A frolic occurs when the employee is doing something completely out of the scope of his or her job when the accident happens. An employee could be running his or her own errands or stopping somewhere for a coffee break with friends when the accident occurs. Because the employee isn’t completing duties directly related to his or her job at the time of the accident, the employer would not be held liable.If you are injured during an accident, you have every right to file a claim for personal injury. Unfortunately the process is a bit more difficult when driving a company car rather than your own. Immediately after the accident, as in all accidents, job related or otherwise, you need to visit a medical facility to be assessed by a doctor. You should also contact the police so that a report is filed. Additionally, you should make sure to get contact information for any eyewitnesses.
Once you take the above steps, the process with your company begins – and it may be tricky. If your employer is asking you to not make a claim for the accident, or asking you to use their legal experts, it very well may be time for you to find your own counsel. You have every right to be compensated for your injuries, and sometimes those interests may be in conflict with the company’s interests. Even if not purposefully, your company may be looking out for themselves more than you, so you need someone who is going to be on your side representing your best interests.For example, the company may be hiding factors, such as, the car being unsafe. As an employee who is driving a company car, law requires that the vehicle be maintained and in working order for you to drive it. There are certain health and safety regulations that must be followed by your employer. If your accident was as a result of their negligence in not maintaining the vehicle, they may be held liable for your personal injuries. It is the same as if you were working in their office and injured yourself due to an unsafe work environment.
If you have been involved in an accident in a company car, give Reyes Browne Reilley Law Firm a call for a free consultation. Company car liability issues are very complicated, and it is advised that you seek professional counsel to ensure your rights are upheld and you get the best possible outcome, particularly if the case is going to trial.