In just one year, American companies paid out $25 billion as a result of work-related car accidents. Settlement amounts ranged anywhere from $65,000 (for injuries) to $650,000 (for fatalities.) Where does this money come from? In these accidents, injured victims and their families were compensated by the companies’ commercial vehicle insurance policies.
Workplace vehicle accidents are more common than you think. As car accident attorneys, we frequently assist victims of FedEx truck accidents and UPS truck accidents. But whether they’re minor or major, wrecks involving company vehicles are complicated, and they can add more stress to the already-confusing process of filing a personal injury claim after an auto accident.
In work-related car accidents, who is responsible? Is an employer liable for an employee’s car accident? It all depends on the circumstances. Below we address some common scenarios and insurance options.
Texas Workplace Injury Laws
Texas workplace injury laws operate under two systems: workers’ compensation and non-subscriber.
If your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, it will pay for your on-the-job injuries, no matter how the accident happened. Once they have opted into workers’ comp, employees do not have the right to sue their employer for work injuries.
On the other hand, a “non-subscriber” refers to an employer who does not subscribe to the workers’ compensation system. They have the potential to be sued by their injured employees.
What’s The Difference Between Workers’ Comp and Liability Insurance?
When dealing with company car accidents, different types of insurance may come into play. Here’s an overview:
Workers’ compensation covers employees who are injured at work. This coverage includes medical bills from injuries sustained in work-related car accidents, as well as some or all of the wages victims miss out on while healing. Note: If an employee was hurt while driving their personal vehicle for work-related purposes, they may still be eligible for worker’s compensation.
Liability insurance pays for damages sustained by third parties. (A “third party” is anyone who is unaffiliated with the company, such as a pedestrian or driver struck by a company vehicle.) In most work-related car accidents, the employer’s liability insurance coverage protects employees from having to pay the injured victims personally. Liability insurance covers medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It also covers an employee’s legal fees if they are sued by the third-party claimants.
General liability policies pay for damages from a variety of situations, such as slips, falls, and other accidents that occur on company property.
Commercial vehicle policies are company auto insurance policies. These policies work similarly to your own personal car insurance, but they tend to have much higher coverage limits!
If you drive for work and your employer does not provide adequate coverage via the above policies, protect yourself! Did you know your personal car insurance carrier may be able to deny your accident claim if you were using your personal vehicle for work? You can avoid this by investing in additional insurance coverage called a “rider.” A rider is an add-on to your car insurance policy that covers accidents that happen while you’re using your vehicle for business purposes. While your rates will go up, your employer may be willing to reimburse you for the cost of this coverage.
As with all insurance policies and their fine print, exceptions and conditions will still apply. Whether you’re an employee or a third-party victim, the insurance company will try every trick in the book to avoid paying you for your expenses. A car accident lawyer can protect your rights and secure the maximum possible settlement for you.
Every car accident is different, but the aftermath of a company car crash can be especially tricky. After a wreck with a commercial vehicle, follow these steps for best results:
- Call for help. In addition to receiving medical care, you’ll want to call 911 to summon police to the scene. A police accident report can be crucial evidence in a car accident case!
- Take photos and collect info. Take plenty of photos of the accident scene and the damaged vehicles. Collect identifying information including the driver’s name, the name of the company they work for, their employee ID number, license plate number, and proof of insurance.
- Fill out an accident report. In addition to getting a police report, you should also ensure an accident report is filled out by the company who owns the commercial vehicle. You or your company car crash lawyer can obtain a copy of this report.
- Determine fault. After any accident, the most important step — beyond treating any injuries, of course — is determining who caused the accident. Be aware: there can be multiple at-fault parties. Your car accident lawyer can help you determine fault by collecting evidence.
- Figure out who will pay. Once fault is determined, you can figure out which insurance policies can help cover the victims’ expenses. See the next section for more details!
Work-Related Auto Accident Scenarios
How does an on-the-job car accident work? Some unique legal issues may arise. Let’s figure out who is responsible in these three hypothetical scenarios:
→ I was hit by someone who was driving a company vehicle.
Truckers may cause a tragic truck accident while driving for work. You also commonly share the streets with taxi cabs, buses, cement mixers, and a variety of other commercial vehicles. What happens if one of these vehicles hits you?
An employer’s responsibilities include paying for injuries and property damage caused by any of their employees while operating company vehicles. If you are involved in a car accident with a commercial vehicle, you can file a claim against the company who owns the vehicle.
Context is key here. An employer is responsible for an employee’s accident in a company vehicle during work hours. However, an employer is not responsible for an accident that happens during a commute, lunch, or personal errand.
If an employee hits you while driving their own personal car on the clock, you will first turn to that employee’s own personal car insurance. If the employee does not have adequate coverage to compensate you, you can then turn to their vicariously liable employer for compensation for your injuries and property damage.
If you’re coping with the aftermath of a commercial vehicle accident, you’re not alone. A car accident attorney is here to guide you through the process, identify all possible lines of insurance coverage, and help you maximize your settlement award. To find out more about what happens in work-related car accidents, get a free consultation from our team right now.
→ I was in an accident while driving a commercial vehicle for work.
According to Texas state law, an employer can be held liable for injuries resulting from an accident involving an on-duty employee. However, there are limits to this coverage.
Company insurance will not cover you if:
- you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- you committed a crime during the trip (yes, even speeding counts!)
- you were running personal errands (known as a “frolic” in legal jargon)
- you were an independent contractor using your own personal vehicle (for food delivery drivers, outside sales, caregivers/in-home nurses, etc)
In these cases, your employer may be exempt from liability.
Many employers have a company vehicle accident policy. The specifics of this policy will vary from business to business. For example, in Uber and Lyft accidents, the rideshare apps have their own policies and insurance coverage.
If you lease a company-owned vehicle — like a taxi cab — your contract will specify exactly what you can be held liable for while operating the vehicle. For more help untangling your employer’s company vehicle accident policy, consult a company car crash lawyer.
If your employer owns the car you’re driving, the company insures that vehicle. Therefore, the company’s insurance will pay the other victims if you are found at-fault for an accident.
Additionally, if you cause a car accident while driving a company vehicle and your employer has workers’ comp coverage, you’ll still receive benefits, because fault does not affect workers’ comp. Your employer’s insurance will also compensate the third-party claimants and protect you from being sued by them.
However, if your own negligence caused an accident in a commercial vehicle and your employer does not have workers’ comp coverage, you’re out of luck. You will have to pay for your own expenses.
If a reckless driver hit you while you were driving a company vehicle, you can file a personal injury claim against them. Their auto liability insurance should pay for your damages. All Texas drivers are required to carry liability insurance.
You may be able to sue the other driver for damages in addition to receiving workers’ comp benefits through your company. However, workers’ comp may try to take some or all of the money you receive from the other driver! For example, if you receive $10,000 in workers’ comp benefits and later receive a $15,000 settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurance, your employer can pursue $10,000 of that settlement as payback. A company car crash lawyer can help you negotiate wisely and hold on to as much money as possible.
In the interest of protecting their finances, employers may try to dodge the blame or accuse their employee of acting irresponsible or “outside the scope of employment.” Many companies will require drug testing for drivers recently involved in accidents. They may also investigate your driving record for a history of previous accidents.
If you’ve been in a work-related car accident, you may be feeling defeated and overwhelmed as you deal with multiple stubborn insurance companies. Help is available. Meet with a car accident attorney – free virtual case evaluations are available NOW!
→ I was in an accident while driving my personal vehicle for work.
Unfortunately, employer liability does not include coverage for any property damage to an employee’s personal vehicle. You will have to use your own car insurance coverage in this case, as well as file a claim with the other driver’s insurance carrier.
If you are at-fault and the other driver’s damages exceed the limits of your liability insurance coverage, the victim can then go after your employer.
Note: If an employee was hurt while driving their personal vehicle for work-related purposes, they may still be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits.
If you’ve been involved in an accident while driving your personal vehicle for work, a car accident lawyer can help.
Company car crash laws vary from state to state. So when are employers liable in car accidents involving their employees?
An employer may be liable for a commercial vehicle accident if they:
- Failed to maintain their fleet of work vehicles
- Did not provide adequate training
- Did not require employees to get properly licensed or certified
Additionally, if an employer pressured their employee to break a law or violate FMCSA regulations, the employer can be held accountable. For example, say you are a truck driver and your employer overloaded your schedule, violating the “hours of service” rules. If you become exhausted by this schedule, fall asleep at the wheel and cause an accident, your employer could be liable.
Employers are also responsible for making sure their company vehicles are safe to drive. This means performing routine maintenance and safety inspections on their fleet. If you were driving a company car and had an accident due to a mechanical failure, your employer may be liable.
With proper training, fleet maintenance, and caution, most commercial vehicle crashes are preventable.
But what about when negligent employees cause car accidents? Are their employers responsible then?
To answer this question, we’ll take a look at vicarious liability.
What is Vicarious Liability?
Vicarious liability is also known as “respondeat superior,” which is Latin for “let the master answer.”
As you might’ve guessed, vicarious liability means an employer is liable for the actions of their employees. Under vicarious liability, an employer can be found at fault for any employee’s negligent actions during work or while the employee is driving for work-related purposes.
A victim can sue an employer for any damage an employee causes while on the clock, even if the accident happens outside of the company’s premises. For example, if a truck driver hit you, you would sue the trucking company, not the driver.
Tip: Get the most out of your commercial accident lawsuit. Suing an employer is almost always more successful than suing an employee.
Damages from a work-related accident claim include:
When we meet with car accident victims, their number one concern is paying for their medical bills. A car accident lawyer can help! However, under Texas workers’ compensation law, your employer will be able to choose who you can see from a specific network of workers’ comp doctors.
Pain and suffering.
An accident can be traumatic, especially if it left you with a disability or disfigurement. We understand you’re coping with significant mental anguish, and we believe you deserve compensation for it. Unfortunately, workers’ comp does not cover pain and suffering, but it can be included in your lawsuit against a non-subscriber.
Wrongful death and burial expenses.
These damages are paid to a victim’s family in the event of a fatal workplace accident.
If you’re hurt in a work-related auto accident, you’ll probably need to take some time off to recover. If you have to miss more than seven days of work, Texas workers’ compensation income benefits will partially cover these lost wages.
Note: the Texas state weekly average wage limits how much you can receive from WC income benefits. Currently, the maximum weekly benefit rates for workers’ compensation income benefits is $938.
In a work-related car accident, will my employer pay my medical bills?
Workers’ compensation should help pay for your medical bills, regardless of who was at fault. If you were hurt while driving a company car and your workers’ compensation claim was denied, contact a company car crash lawyer ASAP.
I was in an accident while going to work. Does this count as a work-related accident?
Accidents that happen while commuting or driving between job sites aren’t always legally considered “acting within the scope of employment.” This means commuting injuries are generally not included under the umbrella of work-related accidents.
My car was hit in my workplace’s parking lot. What can I do?
If your car was damaged in a workplace car park, lot, or garage, your employer is not liable. Instead, you must pursue the insurance of the individual who hit you.
What happens if an employee hits someone during a business trip?
If an employee causes a wreck while on a business trip, the employer can be held responsible for damages, although it might depend on whether the employee was actually working or not at the time of the crash.
What is an employer’s responsibility for employee drunk driving accidents?
If an employee was driving drunk and caused an accident, their employer’s insurance must compensate any third-party victims. The employer’s insurance will not help the drunk driver pay for any of their damages.
Big companies often have skilled Houston car accident lawyers on their side, so why shouldn’t you?
If you were hurt in an accident with a commercial vehicle, a car accident attorney can help you:
- investigate the accident and determine fault
- collect evidence and interview witnesses
- obtain copies of police reports, accident reports, and company insurance policies
- calculate the value of your losses
- file an insurance claim or lawsuit
- negotiate with insurance companies to secure your maximum settlement amount
Don’t waste any more time trying to comb through the fine print alone and unaware.
In addition to our nationally-recognized dedication to personal injury victims, our firm has extensive experience with workers’ comp cases.
An auto accident lawyer can set you on the right path and protect your rights every step of the way.
Get your free case evaluation now!
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.