What to Do if You’re in a Car Accident on the Job

Jun 11, 2019 by

Car Accident On the Job? Here’s What You Need to Know

No two car collisions are the same as each other. Negligence, liability, and damages all depend on a unique set of circumstances.

When it comes to crashes that happen when you’re on the job, the waters can become even murkier. Knowing what to do in the aftermath of such an incident will help you, as an employee, to make smart decisions that protect your best interests.

The Employer is Responsible When …

In order to understand when the company may be responsible for a car crash, you have to be aware of the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. This Latin term describes the legal responsibility employers have for the actions of their employees while the latter are acting within the scope of employment.

Underneath the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is responsible to pay for injuries and/or property damage that occur when an employee is fulfilling standard work tasks and responsibilities. In a situation where an employee is named in a lawsuit alongside someone outside of the company, the employer’s liability coverage will typically cover the worker’s legal fees and expenses.

It’s also worthwhile to understand the role of workers compensation and how it differs from liability insurance:

  • Workers compensation insurance covers an employee who is injured on the job by taking care of medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and a portion of the lost wages.
  • Liability insurance is designed to pay for damages that are suffered by third parties. In other words, it comes into play when there are victims outside of the company.

Because of the distinction, comparative negligence is a big deal in these cases. As Will Ferguson & Associates explains, your damages can be limited by the amount of fault that’s found to lie with you.

If you’re found 45 percent at fault and the other party is found 55 percent at fault, you can only assign 55 percent of the blame to that party. When you layer this on top of the distinction between workers compensation and liability insurance, things get fairly tricky.

The Employee is Responsible When …

Just because you’re involved in a car accident while on company time, that doesn’t necessarily mean your employer should share any of the blame. In certain situations, neither workers compensation insurance nor the employer’s liability insurance will cover your damages. These situations include:

  • Frolicking. This is the legal name used to refer to “goofing off.” Even if it happens on company time, something like running a personal errand, going out to lunch with a romantic love interest, or playing golf course on a driving range during your lunch break could shift 100 percent of the liability onto you and your own personal insurance.
  • Criminal activity. If you’re engaged in some sort of criminal activity while in a company vehicle (or on company time), this will almost certainly remove any sort of protections or compensation that would otherwise extend to you in response to the accident.
  • Contractor status. There’s a lot of gray area when it comes to independent contractors using personal vehicles on behalf of the company. If, for example, you’re delivering pizza for a company or driving for Uber, you’ll probably have to rely on your own personal insurance to cover damages that result from an accident.
  • Non-business activities. Finally, it matters what activities you were doing when you were involved in the crash. Just because you were operating a company car, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re covered 24/7/365. Read the vehicle agreement carefully to find out when you’re covered and when you’re not. (For example, who is responsible if you’re in an accident during the commute to and from work?)

The purpose of your transportation is one of the single most significant factors in your case. Don’t be surprised if your employer’s insurance provider and/or lawyers ask questions about this.

Honesty and Transparency Above All

At the end of the day, there’s very little to gain (and everything to lose) by being the least bit dishonest, shady, or manipulative about a car accident. While you might think you can embellish details, disguise a small fact, or get away with not mentioning a tiny factor, it’s really not worth the effort to conceal information.

Honesty and transparency will ultimately allow you to recover and move on faster than deceit (which has a tendency to entangle you further).

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