A car accident is a major event in any case, but when you’re driving a company vehicle, the stakes may seem higher. In Arizona, there are many employees who drive company vehicles while working – everyone from plumbers and electricians, to movers and emergency technicians, to executives, delivery drivers and personal drivers.
If you’re driving one of these vehicles and get into a serious accident, what are your rights? Can you be held liable, or will your company be? Should you sue the other driver for damages, or look to workers’ compensation? It all depends on the circumstances of the accident and who is at fault.
Were You Driving for Work or for Pleasure?
Vicarious liability is a term that means even though your employer was not the one driving a car that was in an accident, your employer may be the liable party when you are using a company car for work. Here are some instances that would be considered driving a company car for personal use, not for work:
- When you’re driving to or from work
- When you’re driving on a work errand, but veer from your employer instructions and go elsewhere
- When you are driving outside of company hours
To be considered for vicarious liability, you must be driving specifically for a work task. However, if you are committing a crime while doing this, you are considered liable. Examples of when you might be considered liable for a car accident, even though your driving is work-specific, include when you are driving while drunk, or when you are dangerously driving at excessive speeds.
This is why even while your employer will have insurance for a company car, you as the driver must also have your own insurance. Your employer company car policy or contract should have all details about what kinds of driving are considered for work and which aren’t.
In order to recover full damages for an accident you’re in while driving a company car, you will need to gather evidence for a workers’ compensation claim. There may also be evidence that the other driver’s negligence caused the action, in which case you may want to pursue further legal action. After any company car accident where there are possible injuries, follow these steps.
- Call emergency services. You can get treatment for injuries you’re facing. Police will file a police report that protects you in your case. You should also follow any employer instructions you receive, and notify your employer right away about the accident.
- Document the scene. Attempt to gather witness statements if possible. Document the accident through photos and videos, taking note of both your vehicle and the other vehicle. Gather insurance, vehicle and contact information from the other party.
- Observe details. If there is anything that reinforces that the other party is at fault, such as the smell of alcohol or the driving behavior you noticed in the other person, let the police officer know so it can be recorded in the police report. You should also check out the condition of your vehicle, to see if a vehicle malfunction contributed to the accident.
Know that if you were not driving strictly for company use at the time of the accident, you may not be compensated by your employer, and the other party may choose to take action against you. Even if your employer’s car insurance is adequate enough to cover the accident, the other party may sue you anyway. It’s best to be prepared.
If you were driving on company time, and the other motorist’s negligence is to blame for the accident, you may also want to contact a Phoenix car accident attorney. You may choose to file a claim against the other party to gain compensation beyond what is offered through workers’ compensation.
Also, if there is any question about whether or not you were driving for company purposes, consulting with an attorney is wise. You may not receive adequate compensation for your injuries or may even find yourself pursuing a legal battle with your employer. You should keep a copy of your company car contract, which will help if you decide to file a claim.
In some cases, the accident may actually have been caused by the employer. For example, the employer may not have properly maintained the vehicle, which put you and other drivers on the road at risk. In this case, an attorney can help you potentially file a claim against your employer.
In any car accident where you sustain serious personal injuries, are hospitalized, or have to miss time off work because of injuries, you may want to consult with a personal injury lawyer so you can understand your rights and what your full compensation potential is. In cases where an insurance company, employer and the other driver are all looking out for their best interests, it’s important to have an advocate on your side.