There are many different types of commercial vehicles. While some often automatically think of transport trailers and other large vehicles, standard cars are also commercial vehicles when they are company cars. Driving a company car has many benefits. You can save your own vehicle from wear and tear, you may not even have to pay for gas, and you are saved the burden of paying for insurance premiums.
Unfortunately, company vehicles can get into an accident just like any other car on the road. However, the aftermath of a crash in a company car can become much more complex. Are you liable for the damages, or will your employer pay for your lost income and medical expenses? Below, our Baton Rouge commercial vehicle accident lawyer explains further.
Employers are Generally Liable After a Company Vehicle Accident
In most cases, employers are liable after a company vehicle accident. When an employee acts negligently and causes an accident, it is the employer’s auto insurance company who will pay for damages. You may also be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim if you are injured and have to miss work due to your injuries.
There are exceptions to when the company’s auto insurance policy will provide coverage after an accident with the company vehicle, however. They are as follows:
- You were not acting within the scope of your employment at the time of the crash,
- You were in violation of the law or your company’s policies, and that violation led to the crash, or
- You are not classified as an employee but rather as an independent contractor.
The above three points are examined further below.
Acting Within the Scope of Your Employment
Employers have a responsibility to purchase auto insurance for any company car. These insurance policies cover any accident that happens while an employee is acting within the scope of their employment. What does this mean exactly, though?
When you act within the scope of your employment, your actions benefit your employer. For example, if you are driving to the store to pick up supplies for the workplace or you are running other errands for your employer, those actions are for the benefit of your employer.
On the other hand, if you use a company vehicle to travel out of town for personal reasons, run your own errands, or do anything else that does not benefit your employer, you are not acting within the scope of your employment. If you were not acting within the scope of your employment, your employer’s auto insurance will not cover the damages, even if the crash occurred during work hours.
Violation of the Law or Company Policy
Employers are vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their employees. This means that when an employee acts carelessly, and someone becomes hurt as a result, the employer can be held liable.
There is an important exception to the vicarious liability law. Employers can deny liability if the employee violated company policy, and that violation is what caused the crash. Company policies typically require employees to act in accordance with the law and to avoid acting negligently when they are driving the company car. This means that when an employee drives while impaired by alcohol, texts while they drive, or otherwise breaks the law, the employee can be held personally liable.
Employees vs. Independent Contractors
The employment status of a worker can also determine whether an employer or employee is liable for damages after an accident in a company car. Employers are only liable for the actions of their employers. They are not liable for the actions of independent contractors.
If you are classified as an independent contractor and get into an accident with the company car, you may be liable for any injuries or property damage you caused. Additionally, you may also be liable for any damage to the company car. If you are an independent contractor, it is critical that you ask whether the company vehicle has a commercial auto insurance policy and any coverage that would apply to you. Independent contractors are also ineligible for worker’s compensation after being injured in a company vehicle.
Our Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyer in Baton Rouge Can Protect Your Rights
If you have been hurt in an accident with a commercial vehicle, you need sound legal advice. At Big River Trial Attorneys, our Baton Rouge commercial vehicle accident lawyer can review the facts of your case and help you determine which strategy is best for you to receive the compensation you are entitled to. Call us now at (225) 963-9638 or contact us online to request a free consultation.