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Car Accident in a Work Vehicle – Who Pays?

portrait of shocked male driver closing face with handsMany American companies give their employees company cars to use. Employees use these cars to go meet with colleagues, customers, and prospective clients. While the company carries the insurance on these cars, what happens when the employee gets into a car accident in a work vehicle? Who is liable? What happens when the accident occurs while the employee was using the company car for personal business? If someone driving his or her company car injures you, how will you receive the compensation you need?

Generally, if an employee injures another person while performing his or her work duties, the company will be liable for the damages and the injuries sustained. This is in accordance with the doctrine of respondeat superior. This doctrine states that employers are vicariously liable for the acts of their employees while their employees are in the course of employment. As such, it is important to establish whether the employee was clearly acting in the course of employment when the accident occured. If it is not obvious that the employee was performing a work-related task, then the courts will need to decide whether the employee was on a “frolic” or a “detour”.

  • Frolic – when an employee deviates from the scope of his employment, then the owner or employer is absolved from liability. When this occurs, the employee is held liable for the accident and the employee’s insurance policy must pay any settlement or judgment awarded to the plaintiff.
  • Detour – when an employee deviates just slightly from the scope of his employment, but the act still falls within the scope of his job, then the employer is still considered liable for the accident. Thus, the employer’s insurance policy must pay any settlement or judgment awarded to the plaintiff.

For example:
Dyson was driving to meet a client for a meeting. While on the way to the appointment, he got off of the freeway to get gas at a gas station. On the way to get gas, he ran a red light and got into an accident. This would be considered a detour because he was still in the scope of his employment and thus the employer would still be held liable.

Janet was driving back to the office after visiting the new production line for work. On her way back to the office, she stopped at the post office to mail a package to her grandmother. When leaving the post office, she ran into a parked car, injuring the driver. Janet would be considered liable and not her employer, since Janet was in the process of performing a personal task and not a work-related errand.

Further Reading: Does the Phrase “Car Accident” Absolve Negligent Drivers?

Company Car Accidents can Get Complicated

It is very important to clearly establish liability in accidents involving company cars. Employers will likely be looking to limit their own liability by claiming that the employee was not involved in a work-related task at the time of the accident. Yet, what happens when the employee does not carry enough insurance? If you are not able to establish employer liability, you could be left without enough money to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, disabilities, and loss of future earnings.

Your car accident lawyer must clearly establish who is to blame for your accident and whether the employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident. This is not easily done. Your lawyer will likely have to perform an extensive investigation of the accident, including the jobs you are asked to perform at work.

If You are Injured While Driving a Company Car

If you are injured while performing work-related duties, such as visiting clients, attending meetings, or visiting the job-site, you may have many options to collecting compensation. First, the at-fault driver that is responsible for the accident is also responsible for your injuries and damages. You may need to file a third-party lawsuit against the responsible party to obtain the maximum compensation for your injuries.

Because you were driving a company vehicle and actively engaged in work at the time of the accident, you are also able to file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer and your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. Your car accident attorney will be able to assist you in collecting the compensation you need and filing all necessary claims against the responsible parties.

Contact Our Colorado Springs Car Accident Lawyers

Colorado Springs Car Accident Lawyer Greg GreenIf you are injured in a car accident by someone driving a company car or you are injured while driving a company car, it is important to contact an experienced Colorado Springs car accident lawyer immediately. Contact the experienced Colorado Springs car accident attorneys at the Green Law Firm today to schedule a no-obligation consultation and discuss your case. Call us today at 1-719-694-8515.