Being involved in a car accident in a company vehicle is a worst-case scenario for many professionals, yet it is a very real possibility. While experiencing an accident in your personal vehicle is difficult enough to navigate, being involved in a car accident while driving a company vehicle poses additional complications and another set of challenges.
You may be left with questions regarding who is liable for the damages or who will pay for any incurred medical expenses, and the answers may not always be clear. Since the circumstances surrounding car accidents in company vehicles differ from case to case, it is advised to contact an experienced attorney to discuss your options.
The personal injury attorneys at Labrum Law are skilled in handling cases involving car accidents in company vehicles. Call Labrum Law at (615) 338-9500 to ensure that you receive fair and just treatment under the law.
Determining Liability In Company Vehicle Car Accidents
Generally, the employer is responsible for any injuries sustained by the employee while they are working. This is referred to as “respondeat superior” or, in simpler terminology, “vicarious liability.” When determining liability in car accidents involving company vehicles, the question largely hinges on whether or not the employee was performing duties under the scope of their employment at the time of the crash.
It is important to note that under all circumstances, under Tennessee law, a person involved in a car accident should stop their vehicle at the scene of the accident, and also contact law enforcement. If the employee was working when the car accident occurred, then the employer will likely be held liable. For instance, if a postal service worker is driving their normal route to deliver parcels and they rear-end another vehicle, then the postal service employer will be held liable for any damages because the worker was performing their job duties at the time of the crash.
For vicarious liability to apply, it must be proven that the employee was working at the time of the accident. This can be proven in two ways:
- The duty was an authorized act directly assigned by the employer, or
- The duty can be proven to be closely related to an authorized act by the employer
For this reason, it is of utmost importance to document the entire process, especially if the employee has been assigned a work project and is using a company car to commute to and from. Maintaining written proof of assignment could make the difference between being protected under the employer's insurance or having to pay for the damages yourself.
Who Pays After An Accident In A Company Vehicle?
Determining who pays after an accident in a company vehicle depends on who sustained injuries during the accident and who is deemed at fault for the collision. To this point, if the employee was the only person to sustain injuries during the accident, they are covered by workers' compensation insurance. If the other person was injured, then it must be determined who was most at fault in the accident.
Comparative Negligence In Tennessee
Tennessee is one of several states that utilize a comparative negligence system. This means that a judge will assign a percentage of fault to each party involved in an accident. In Tennessee, if a party is assigned a fault of 50% or more, they will not be awarded any damages.
Vicarious liability is applicable when the employee is found to be at fault for the crash. Under Tennessee comparative negligence legislation, multiple parties may be at fault for a collision, but the party found to be most at fault is responsible for compensation.
This grey area of car accident settlement cases complicates the process of determining fault after an accident. The other driver involved in a crash may attempt to prove that the employee driving a company vehicle was most at fault for the accident, in order to relieve them self of responsibility during the settlement process.
Using A Company Vehicle For Personal Use
While vicarious liability protects employees who are performing work duties at the time of an accident, it does not apply when the employee was using the vehicle for personal use or for any errands unrelated to their work.
Under this definition of vicarious liability, any trip taken by your own initiative is considered personal use. This can be as obvious as driving the children to soccer practice after work hours, or as small as taking a detour to pick up a cup of coffee on the way to a meeting. Even if it occurs during business hours and/or on the route to a work-related destination, the employer is not liable for any accident that happens during these personal errands.
Driving Your Own Vehicle For Work
So, what happens if you were driving your own vehicle for work purposes and experienced a collision? Are you covered by your employer's insurance?
In most cases, it will depend on the circumstances. Most often, however, your employer's insurance will not protect you in this instance, unless they purchased the appropriate endorsement for their commercial auto policy.
There is a specific insurance that covers employees who utilize their own vehicle for work purposes, for instance, if they are delivering packages or commuting to work meetings outside of the office. This coverage is the responsibility of the employee, not the employer.
Contact An Experienced Tennessee Personal Injury Attorney
Experiencing an accident in a company vehicle can be nerve-wracking and the aftermath of a collision can become quite complicated, especially since many different parties are involved. If you or a loved one was involved in a car accident in a company vehicle, it is important to know your rights. Ensure fair treatment under the law by talking to an expert Labrum Law personal injury attorney at (615) 338-9500.