Wrecking your own car is enough of a headache, but crashing the company car is even worse. Even the safest of drivers wonder what might happen in this dreadful scenario. Will you need to hire car accident attorneys? Are you even at fault? Here’s everything you need to know.
As with any other automobile, the insurance company pays for the damages the vehicle incurs. That is, of course, as long the accident is covered by the policy. In instances where injuries or damages are uncovered, then the responsible party must pay for the crash.
If that responsible party is you, then your employer might have you pay them back for covering the expense. According to Bay Area car accident lawyers, there are also a number of times when how your employer has you use the car places liability on them. That could include trucking accidents after unrealistically long drives, fully insured policies, and various other grey areas of the law.
Deciding who is liable, you or your employer, isn’t always so clear cut. Most courts fall back on respondeat superior, which is Latin for “let the master answer.” Respondeat superior generally places liability on the employer for the actions of their employees.
However, you must have been acting within the scope of your job’s responsibilities for this principle to apply. While operating within the scope of employment can be difficult to define, most states refer to it as performing a work-related task while driving a vehicle. Any personal use of that car eliminates respondeat superior.
The type of coverage your employer purchases can also change liability. Their policy might place full liability on them or excludes them from responsibility entirely. Even then, states have their own laws about liability that could alter the outcome of your accident. Ultimately, your state’s laws and employer’s insurance often determine who is ultimately responsible.
Your employer isn’t going to be happy about you wrecking the company car, but if you were operating within the scope of your employment then they cannot retaliate against you. They cannot force you to pay for the damages either in this case. This does not apply to all states, though.
If you violated company rules or were driving recklessly, however, they can fire you on the spot. The majority of states also hold an at-will employment status, which means your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all. In this instance, you could be fired regardless of fault.
Determining who is at fault is rarely simple and requires a court case. When speaking with an attorney or in court, you are responsible for recounting all of the events that lead up to and caused the accident. You, your employer, or your attorney should collect all of the other party’s information and obtain any relevant police reports. Witnesses need to be contacted for statements, as well.
While the outcome depends on a wide variety of factors, it’s important to know which work against you and which work in your favor. Speaking with an attorney is your best chance of saving your job, lowering any amount you may have to pay, and reducing any charges in the event the accident was your fault.