Accident in a Company Vehicle: Who Pays?

Accident in a Company Vehicle: Who Pays?

Determining who is financially responsible can be complicated when you're involved in an accident while driving a company vehicle.

For example, your employer's commercial insurance policy should typically cover the damages if an accident occurs while performing work-related duties. Businesses have commercial auto insurance to protect their assets and employees while working. 

However, suppose you were using the company vehicle for personal reasons or outside of work hours without permission. In that case, the question of liability becomes less clear, and your personal auto insurance might come into play.

The personal injury attorneys at Stewart J. Guss Injury Lawyers are uniquely qualified to discuss vehicle accident liability, legal considerations, and how we can help make the process easier. This simple but critical philosophy has guided our practice for decades: Trust Guss. Because your well-being is at the heart of everything we do, you can Trust Guss to guide you through the process.

Understanding Vehicle Accident Liability

Understanding vehicle accident law is crucial when seeking compensation for injuries and damages. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Liability refers to the legal obligation of one party to compensate another for losses or injuries resulting from an accident. In vehicle accidents, determining liability involves assessing factors such as negligence, legal responsibilities, and the specific circumstances of the accident.
  • Negligence is a key concept in vehicle accident liability. It refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care that results in harm to others. For example, if a driver runs a red light and causes a collision, they may be considered negligent for disregarding traffic laws. In such cases, the negligent party may be held responsible for the damages.
  • Vehicle accident liability can also involve legal responsibilities based on specific laws and regulations. For instance, commercial truck drivers and companies are subject to strict regulations governing driver hours, vehicle maintenance, and cargo loading. If a trucking company violates these regulations and causes an accident, it may be held responsible for negligence per se, meaning that its violation of the law is considered evidence of negligence.
  • The circumstances surrounding the accident play a crucial role in determining liability. Factors such as eyewitness testimonies, police reports, traffic camera footage, and expert accident scene analysis can all contribute to establishing liability. It's essential to thoroughly gather and analyze this evidence to build a strong case for proving liability and seeking fair compensation for the injured party.

What Role Does Insurance Coverage for Company Vehicles Play?

When you're involved in an accident with a company vehicle, your insurance coverage determines liability and financial responsibilities.

Commercial Auto Insurance Basics

Commercial auto insurance typically covers vehicles owned and used by a business. Policies often provide liability coverage for property damage and bodily injury in case you're at fault in an accident. They may also include:

  • Collision coverage: Pays for damage to the company vehicle, regardless of who is at fault.
  • Comprehensive coverage: Protects against non-collision incidents, such as theft or vandalism.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: Offers protection if the other party in the accident lacks sufficient insurance.

Employee vs. Employer Insurance Responsibilities

  • If you're the employee: Check if your employer's policy includes "non-owned" vehicle coverage. This provides liability coverage when using your personal vehicle for business purposes.
  • If you're the employer: You are generally responsible for damages when your employees use company vehicles for work-related tasks. Ensuring you have adequate commercial auto insurance to cover such scenarios is vital.

Negligence and Employer Liability

Under the doctrine of vicarious liability, if you, as an employee, are involved in an accident while performing job duties, your employer may be held legally responsible.

But if the accident happened because of your own negligence, like breaking traffic laws or driving under the influence, you could be held personally responsible. If you followed your employer's rules and exercised reasonable care, your employer is more likely to be considered responsible.

Workers' Compensation and On-the-Job Accidents

Workers' compensation is a type of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured during employment. It's a no-fault system, meaning you can receive benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. The two most significant benefits include the following:

  • Wage Replacement: You can receive a portion of your wages if you cannot work due to an on-the-job accident.
  • Medical Benefits: Workers' compensation covers medical expenses associated with the accident.

If you're injured while driving a company vehicle, you must report the accident immediately to both your employer and the workers' compensation insurance carrier.

Financial Considerations: Deductibles and Coverage Limits

Your company's vehicle insurance policy will have deductibles, which are the out-of-pocket costs you must pay before insurance coverage activates after an accident. The policy's coverage limits are the maximum amount the insurer will pay for a covered claim.

Let’s break it down:

  • Deductible: The amount you pay for repairs before your insurance covers the rest. For example, if you have a $500 deductible and the repair costs $2,000, you'll pay $500 and the insurance covers $1,500.
  • Coverage Limits: These limits can vary but might include:
    • Property Damage Liability: Covers damage you cause to another's property. (e.g., $25,000 per accident)
    • Bodily Injury Liability: Covers injury you cause to others. (e.g., $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident)
    • Collision: Pays for damage to your vehicle. (e.g., up to the value of the car)

After an accident in a company vehicle, the process for handling repair or replacement costs depends on the circumstances of the incident and your company's insurance policy.

  • Repair Costs: If the vehicle can be fixed, your company's insurance may cover repair costs minus the deductible, which your company typically pays.
  • Replacement Costs: If the vehicle is a total loss, the insurance company may provide compensation based on the vehicle's actual cash value, which is the vehicle's value at the time of the accident, not the purchase price.

Employee Rights and Compensation Claims

We cannot overstate the importance of immediately reporting an injury in a company vehicle to your employer. Usually, your employer's insurance will cover the accident. However, you might be able to file a workers' compensation claim, which can give you benefits no matter who caused the accident.

If there's a disagreement, consider that settlements can be negotiated. Your employer or their insurance might offer you a settlement to avoid a lengthy legal process. You have the right to have a lawyer look at the offer before you agree to it. Consider whether the compensation covers your medical bills, lost wages, and other losses, and remember that a lawyer can help ensure you get a fair deal.

If you disagree with the insurance company, you can file a claim with your state's workers' compensation board. Mediation and other ways of solving problems can also help without going to court.

What to Do Following a Company Vehicle Accident

When involved in an accident with a company vehicle, it’s essential to follow specific procedures to ensure legality, safety, and proper reporting.

  • Ensure Safety: Immediately check for injuries. If anyone is hurt, call 911. If possible, move to a safe area to avoid further danger.
  • Notify Authorities: Regardless of the accident's severity, contact local law enforcement to report the incident. An official report may be necessary for insurance and company records.
  • Contact Your Supervisor: As soon as possible, inform your company’s designated authority about the accident.
  • Accident Report Form: Complete your company's vehicle accident report form. This document is crucial for internal records and may include:
    • Date, time, and location of the accident
    • Names and contact information of involved parties
    • Description of the accident
    • Photos of the scene and damage
  • Cooperate with Your Company: Your company will likely conduct its own investigation. Provide clear, factual information as requested.
  • Review of Policies and Procedures: Be prepared to participate in a review of the accident in relation to company policies and driving procedures to identify if those were followed correctly.

From Investigation to Compensation: The Role of Personal Injury Lawyers in Company Vehicle Crashes

Here's how a personal injury lawyer can help in accident cases involving company vehicles:

Determining Liability

Determining liability is one of the first steps in a company vehicle accident case. A skilled personal injury lawyer will investigate the accident to identify all potentially liable parties. These may include the company vehicle driver, the employer, third parties (such as negligent drivers), or even manufacturers in defective vehicle parts cases.

Navigating Insurance Coverage

Company vehicle accidents often involve multiple insurance policies, including the employer's commercial auto insurance, the driver's personal insurance, and potential coverage from other parties involved. A lawyer can help navigate these complexities, ensuring that all applicable insurance policies are accessed to cover medical expenses, property damage, and other losses.

Establishing Negligence

Proving negligence is crucial in personal injury cases. A lawyer will gather evidence such as accident reports, witness statements, vehicle damage assessments, and medical records to establish how negligence contributed to the accident and resulting injuries. This may involve showing that the driver violated traffic laws, was distracted or fatigued, or failed to maintain the vehicle properly.

Addressing Employer Liability

In accidents involving company vehicles, the employer may be held liable under the legal principle of vicarious liability or respondeat superior. This means employers can be responsible for their employees' actions while performing job-related tasks. A lawyer will assess the employer's liability and seek compensation from their insurance or assets if necessary.

Negotiating Fair Settlements

Personal injury lawyers are skilled negotiators who can engage with insurance companies and legal representatives on behalf of their clients. They will strive to negotiate fair settlements that adequately compensate the injured party for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, the lawyer is prepared to litigate the case in court.

A personal injury lawyer provides valuable representation and advocacy for clients throughout the legal process. This includes preparing legal documents, attending court hearings, depositions, and trials, and ensuring the client's rights and interests are protected at every stage.

Let Stewart J. Guss Injury Lawyers Handle Your Case

If you've been involved in an accident in a company vehicle, you may feel overwhelmed and uncertain about who is responsible for the damages. Stewart J. Guss Injury Lawyers have extensive experience in handling such cases. Our knowledgeable and dedicated legal team ensures your case is managed with the utmost professionalism and care.

Because we have decades of experience, we understand the complexities of company vehicle accidents. Our approach is comprehensive, and we relentlessly pursue all avenues to ensure you receive fair compensation. Your rights matter, and we are here to advocate for them.

Navigating companies' insurance policies can be daunting, but you're not alone in this process. Stewart J. Guss Injury Lawyers will scrutinize the company's policy details and interpret the legal language that defines liability to alleviate your stress and handle the legal intricacies on your behalf.

We're here to provide you with a legal lifeline. Contact Stewart J. Guss Injury Lawyers today to take the first step in resolving your legal matter concerning your accident in a company vehicle. Your peace of mind is our top priority, and we are ready to support you every step of the way.

Trust that everything will be okay. Trust Guss.