You are traveling in a company vehicle on I-25 through Colorado Springs. You are obeying the speed limit and using appropriate caution while operating the vehicle. Suddenly, another driver rear-ends your car. Are you responsible for contributing to the repair costs after a car accident in a work vehicle? What if you are injured?
Fault a Major Factor
First, there needs to be a determination as to who was at fault in the accident before determining who is financially responsible. If the other driver caused the accident, your company would likely file a claim with the other driver’s insurer for damage to the company vehicle or other property. If you sustained personal injuries in the accident while on the job, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance should cover your medical bills and a portion of your lost income if you are out of work. You may also be entitled to file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver that caused the accident.
It’s a different ball game if you were at fault in the accident. When this happens, the other driver would either have to bring a claim against you or, in most cases, your company.
Employer Liability in a Car Accident
In many instances, an employer can be held liable for expenses related to car accidents caused by their employees. However, it depends on whether the employee was involved in an accident while working for the company.
For example, if you caused an accident while making a delivery as part of your job, your company would likely be liable for damages stemming from the accident.
If the employee was involved in an accident with a company car while on a personal errand , then the employer’s insurance carrier may take the position that the employee should be personally responsible for the costs related to the accident.
A Frolic or Detour?
It is important that you understand the difference between a frolic and a detour. In the case of a frolic, you may be personally liable for the costs of the accident. For detours, the company would still be liable.
An example of a detour is if on the way to see a client, you go to the gas station to fill the vehicle’s gas and get involved in an accident on the way. Although this isn’t the company’s task, it is indirectly related to it. As a result, the company will most likely be liable for the costs associated with the accident.
An example of a frolic is if after making a delivery for your company, you then stop by your girlfriend or boyfriend’s house for a brief visit. If you cause an accident while driving a company vehicle to your friend’s house, then you may be personally liable for the accident. Visiting your friend is not within the scope of your work with the company.
Can My Company Make Me Pay for Damages?
Consider this scenario: a company salesperson uses the company’s car to take a client to dinner. At the restaurant, the salesperson orders an expensive bottle of wine to impress the client and ultimately generate more business. However, the salesperson drinks too much wine and becomes intoxicated.
If the employee gets involved in an accident after leaving the restaurant and injures another driver, the employee may be charged with driving while intoxicated. The company’s insurer may take the position that you were acting beyond the scope of your employment by driving while impaired and refuse to cover accident damages because of the violation of law. The employee may be held liable for the injuries caused in a drunk driving accident.
Did Your Company Properly Maintain the Vehicle?
If a company is responsible for maintaining the vehicle, it can affect liability. If the accident was caused by a maintenance failure, the company may be liable for the costs of the accident.
If there was a tire blowout while you were using the company vehicle, and your personal injury lawyer can establish that it was caused by a failure of maintenance, you would be free from liability.
Was the Vehicle Insured by the Company?
Most company vehicles are covered by an insurance policy in the company’s name. A company is liable for harm caused with a vehicle it has insured, regardless of which employee was driving. An accident victim may sue a company if the accident victim was injured by the company’s employee acting within the scope of work.
However, if an employee was driving under the influence when the crash occurred, the insurance company may dispute the claim. The insurer may take the position that the employee was acting outside the scope of employment and the employer is not responsible for the damages caused by an employee’s reckless behavior.
Was There a Company Car Contract?
In many instances, companies require that employees sign a car contract when issuing them a work vehicle. This contract is an important document and you should make sure you understand it before putting pen to paper.
The contract can stipulate certain conditions in which the company would not be liable for accidents involving the company vehicle. In addition to understanding the details of the car contract, you should make sure you have a copy of the contract for future reference.
Speak to an Experienced Colorado Car Accident Attorney
Determining liability for work vehicle accidents can be complicated, depending on the variables involved. If you have a questions about your rights after being injured by someone driving a work vehicle, you should get in touch with an experienced Colorado personal injury lawyer at The Sawaya Law Firm. Call (720) 709-2802 to speak with an attorney. We offer free, confidential consultations. During the consultation, an attorney will go over the facts of the collision and provide an assessment of your legal options. Having a clear understanding of your legal rights will help you make informed decisions. There is no obligation.