If you’re in a car accident in a company vehicle you may not be sure what to do next. We take a look at the ins and outs of company car accidents.
Accidents in a company car while driving under the influence occurs 85% less than in private cars.
It’s often fatigue (23% higher) and tailgating (14% higher) making company drivers riskier. Common risks for company car accidents also include distracted driving, speeding, and carelessness.
So, what if the worst happens? You might know your employer’s rules for reporting the accident, but there’s more to the story.
This situation is much different than when you’re in your personal vehicle. In fact, your personal auto policy does not cover you in your employer’s car.
Here’s what happens if you are in a car accident in a company vehicle.
Immediately After the Accident
The list of what to do right after the accident is not much different than an accident in your personal car.
- Call the police and get a report
- Take pictures of the damage
- If there are injuries, call for an ambulance
- Get driver and witness contact information
- Contact your employer
- Provide all information to employer’s insurance company
The information and documentation assists the insurance company in determining fault. From there, it’s their decision on paying the claim.
Fault Can Be Relative
Determining fault is at the heart of the claims process. In cases when there are two vehicles, one driver can be 100% at fault.
But, when there are more than two vehicles, the fault can split between the drivers. If a driver is 50% at fault, the insurer will pay 50% of the claim value.
Your Company’s Liability
Employees may believe the company’s insurance covers any accident in a company car. But, there are many stipulations.
Your employer lists company rules for their cars, and they expect you’ll follow them. For those who have their car 24/7, there are limits on personal use.
If you are using the car for personal errands when the accident occurs, you can be liable for your own expenses. Also, commute time to and from business duties limits your company’s responsibility.
That said, the term “respondeat superior” applies to your employer. The term means they are, by law, responsible for your actions while you are performing duties for them.
Your company’s insurer will pay damages to victims for repairs and injuries. Let’s say a victim decides to sue you for pain and suffering or lost wages.
The company insurer provides legal counsel, court costs, and pays the judgment if there is one.
In these scenarios, a commercial auto policy is much like a private auto policy. But, the coverage amounts for a commercial policy are much higher.
Are there times when the employee is liable? Yes. If the accident occurs during these situations:
- Driving under the influence
- Engaging in criminal activity
- Any behavior other than company business (goofing off)
- An independent contractor using a personal car
- Commuting to or from the business day
- Using the car for personal business/recreation
Everyone knows having a company car is a great perk. But, before you take the keys, make sure you know all the stipulations.
For example, commercial drivers often lease the vehicle from the employer.
Most transportation companies have contracts which alleviates them from any responsibility for accidents. The drivers must carry their own policy.
Does Worker’s Comp Insurance Cover Injuries?
Worker’s comp covers employee’s injuries that occur on the job. This includes when they’re driving the company car.
The policy also covers out-of-pocket expenses and a part of lost wages if necessary.
Employers also have liability insurance for to cover third parties. If a non-employee is in a car accident with their employee, the liability policy covers them, too.
Customers who file a slip and fall accident will access the same policy for their claim.
Again, the caveat to receiving worker’s comp payments is negligence of the employee. Driving under the influence or careless driving are a few examples.
Should You Get an Attorney?
There are a few reasons getting an attorney is a good idea. If an insurer denies the claim, you can be liable.
Or, if losses include injury or lost wages, representation may help recover them. Pain and suffering due to car accident injuries is recoverable only through litigation.
In some cases, the fault is not as clear-cut as it may seem. If more investigation is necessary, an attorney can proceed with it.
And, once a driver has legal counsel, no longer deal with insurance companies alone.
Do Employers Terminate Employment Due to a Car Accident in a Company Vehicle?
Most Americans work under an at-will employment status. Those not at-will include federal government workers, union members, and some municipal workers.
The rest of us can suffer termination for any reason (other than discrimination) at any time. You can’t lose your job because of your race or age. But, your employer doesn’t need a legal reason to fire you.
With that said, a car accident in a company vehicle costs time and money. Fault for the accident is part of the claim process and has nothing to do with employment status.
So, can you lose your job even when the accident was not your fault? Yes. Your best defense is to understand your company’s rules and drive safe.
Take further pro-active steps by sticking to business while you’re in the driver’s seat.
What Employers Can’t Do
While you read the rules for the company car, be vigilant about rules that are impossible to follow.
If a rule states that termination occurs due to “avoidable accidents”, ask questions.
The truth is, not all accidents are avoidable. Statistics tell us we’ll each have one every 5 years. Asking that you never have a car accident in a company vehicle is too high of a bar for anyone.
This specific example may hold up well in court if you want to fight it. But, the best way to fight it is sign up for it in the first place.
Check out more information! From the best worker’s comp policies to hiring the best drivers, we have easy answers.