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Car Accidents at Work: Who Should You Call?

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

If you drive a company vehicle, you may worry about getting into an accident while driving that vehicle. This happens all the time, not necessarily because the driver of the company vehicle was negligent. It’s also possible that the other driver didn’t follow traffic rules. If you get into a car accident involving a company vehicle, here are the things that you should do.

Determine Who Was at Fault

As the driver of the company vehicle, you need to figure out who's at fault in the accident. If you believe that you're not at fault, you need to contact your employer right away to report the accident involving a company vehicle. Your employer will have to be informed because they’re the owner of the company vehicle and may be deemed liable in the accident. 

Check for Your Employer’s Insurance Coverage

Often, damages for the accident may be covered by your employer’s insurance regardless of who caused the accident. But if you’re at fault, the concept of vicarious liability will kick in.

Vicarious liability simply means that your employer will be held responsible for your actions while driving the company vehicle, especially if you're on duty when the accident happened. As long as the motor vehicle was “off-premises” while you were at the wheel, the employer may be held liable. Employers dread this because plaintiffs may be able to demand higher compensation if they were somehow harmed in the accident. In some cases, employers have to pay extremely high compensation if the lawyer of the injured party cites vicarious liability in the case.

For this reason, your employer must contact their insurance provider right away. This will help to determine if the accident can be covered by the employer’s motor vehicle insurance.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

It’s usually a good idea to check your personal car insurance coverage, even if the accident occurred with your employer’s motor vehicle and not with yours. This is because you’re the driver of the company motor vehicle. So, you should legally be able to use your car insurance for the accident. Most of the time, the coverage for personal car insurance may be sufficient to pay for the accident, without including the company’s car insurance coverage. 

But if the accident results in injuries to multiple victims or if the damage done to the other vehicle or vehicles is extreme, your personal car insurance may not be sufficient to cover the liabilities. Because of this, your employer can be sued for vicarious liability. 

When is the Employer Not Liable for the Car Accident?

Your employer won’t be deemed liable if you were off-duty at the time of the accident, even if you were using a company-owned vehicle. This applies if you were headed home when the accident happened, or if you were going somewhere that's not part of your work duties, such as going to a restaurant or supermarket. In situations such as these, if you figure in an accident, you'll have to be personally answerable for any role in the accident. That means you’ll have to use your personal car insurance coverage to pay for any damages caused.

Final Takeaway - How to Prove You Are Not Liable for a Car Accident

Since your personal car insurance coverage may be sought after an accident occurs while you are driving your employer’s motor vehicle, you need to prove you were not at fault in the accident. First, you have to contact a traffic enforcer or policeman who’s on duty where the accident occurred. This law enforcer may ask you to take a breathalyzer test to check for the level of alcohol in your body at the time of the accident. There may be other sobriety tests as well, such as asking you to walk in a straight line.

If your employer’s motor vehicle has a dashboard camera, that may prove useful in determining who’s at fault. If you've already contacted your employer, you may need to stay with the vehicle until a company representative shows up to help you process the records of the accident (including the footage from the camera of the company vehicle). These steps will help you and your employer so that neither of you will be held financially liable for the damages and personal injuries suffered by the other party or parties in the accident. Remember, if you’re at fault, your car insurance or your company’s motor vehicle insurance may cover the damages. Also bear in mind that your company won’t be held responsible if the accident occurs when you are not traveling on duty.

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