For those who drive company vehicles, it is not always easy to know when a car accident counts as a work-related incident. If it does qualify as work-related, the employer may bear legal responsibility for the accident, even if the employee caused the accident through negligence.
Practically speaking, this turns such accidents into workers' compensation claims. Once an accident qualifies as a workers' compensation claim, the employee still must participate in the claim process to ensure that his or her rights remain protected and the insurer does not offer unfair terms for the claim's settlement.
If you believe that you or someone you love experienced a work-related car accident recently, do not wait to seek treatment and begin building your claim. If you choose to put off treatment, your injuries may grow more serious, and may complicate the settlement of your claim. Should you have reservations about successfully navigating your workers' compensation claim and protecting your rights in the process, an attorney can help you assess your experience and build a strong claim.
Understanding vicarious liability for an employer
If an employee is on the job when a car accident occurs, then the relevant employer may be on the hook for the damages under the principle of vicarious liability. In order for an employee's accident to qualify under vicarious liability, the employee may:
- Experience an accident while performing his or her normal work duties
- Experience an accident while performing a task the directly benefits the employer
- Experience an accident during work hours
- Experience an accident while on a work trip
In broad strokes, if a person experiences an accident while acting as an employee, that person may have grounds to file a workers' compensation claim.
Exceptions to vicarious liability
Not all car accidents that involve employees qualify as work-related, even those involving company vehicles. While an employer bears liability for an employee's negligence, the employer generally does not bear liability for illegal activity.
If, for instance, an employee experiences an accident in a company car after having too many drinks over a work dinner, the employer may claim that it is not responsible for the drunk driving that contributed to the accident.
An employee who chooses to use a company vehicle for a personal errand and experiences an accident while doing so may not qualify for workers' compensation, either.
Similarly, if an employee experiences an accident while commuting to or from work, this generally is not considered work-related unless the employee performs some work-related task during the commute, such as picking up supplies on the way in to work.
However you choose to resolve your claim, be sure that you use all available tools to protect your rights and secure a fair settlement for your losses and suffering.