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Blogs from April, 2021

What Happens If You Have an Accident in a Company Vehicle?

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Driving a company car has a lot of perks. You don’t have to worry about wear and tear on your own vehicle, you don’t have to pay for gas out of pocket, and you don’t have to cover the cost of monthly car insurance. But what happens if you have an accident in a company vehicle? Are you responsible for damage to the vehicle? Will your employer pay your medical bills and lost wages if you are injured?

While every case is different, after most company vehicle accidents in Louisiana, the employer is the one who is responsible for handling the resulting damages.

However, you could be liable for the accident if any of the following are true:

  • You were not acting within the scope of your employment at the time of the accident
  • You violated your company’s policies and/or the law, leading to the accident
  • You are classified as an independent contractor, not an employee

Because the aftermath of a company vehicle accident can be confusing, we’ve broken down these points below. If you would like to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury lawyer in New Orleans, contact The Womac Law Firm directly and request a free, private consultation.

Acting within the Scope of Your Employment

In most cases, employers who provide company cars purchase commercial automobile insurance. Typically, this insurance covers any accidents that occur while an employee is acting “within the scope of their employment.” But what exactly does this mean?

Acting within the scope of your employment means carrying out any activity that benefits your employer. For example, if you are running errands for your boss or are going to another store to pick up supplies, you would be acting within the scope of your employment.

In contrast, if you use a company car to run personal errands, travel out of town, or do anything else that is not for your employer’s benefit, you are not within the scope of your employment. This means you would likely not be covered by your employer’s insurance if you get into an accident. This is true even if the accident happens during work hours.

Violating Company Policies/the Law

Under what are known as respondeat superior laws, or “vicarious liability,” employers are generally liable for the actions of their employees. This means that if you are acting within the scope of your employment and you get into an accident, regardless of whether you or the other person was at fault, your employer is typically liable for the resulting damages. This includes damages to the vehicle, as well as personal injury damages suffered by you or anyone else involved in the accident.

However, there is an important caveat to the rule of respondeat superior. If an employee violates company policies, an employer may deny liability. Often, company policies require employees to follow the law and refrain from being negligent when operating a company vehicle. This means that employees who violate such policies—whether by texting while driving, speeding, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs—may be personally liable for accidents they cause.

Independent Contractor vs. Employee

Your employee status may also affect liability after an accident in a company car. If you are classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee, you may be personally liable if you cause an accident that leaves another person injured. You could also be liable for damage to the other person’s vehicle, as well as the company vehicle.

If you are classified as an independent contractor, be sure to ask about the company’s commercial vehicle coverage (if any). Know the company’s policies and who is liable for an accident in the company vehicle ahead of time so that you can be prepared.

Your employee status could also affect your ability to file a workers’ compensation claim. In Louisiana, nearly all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This covers employees’ medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from on-the-job or work-related accidents—including accidents that happen in a company vehicle. If you were injured while driving a company car, and you were acting on behalf of your employer at the time, you may be entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim.

However, businesses in Louisiana do not need to provide workers’ compensation for independent contractors (in most cases). This means that if you are not classified as an employee, you may not be covered.

Do I Need an Attorney After a Company Vehicle Accident?

While you are not required by law to hire an attorney after a company vehicle accident, it is a good idea to talk to a legal professional who can help you understand your options. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. You may not need to deal with the insurance company after the accident or pay for any damages to the vehicle. However, in some circumstances, you could be liable for damages.

We strongly recommend that you talk to a lawyer about your company vehicle accident. At The Womac Law Firm in New Orleans, we represent injured individuals and workers who have been involved in all types of car and motor vehicle accidents. Our attorneys understand the complexity of these types of cases and can help you navigate the legal process.

Get in touch with us today to speak to one of our New Orleans company vehicle accident attorneys for free.

Fill out and submit a free online case evaluation form today to get started or call us at 504-486-9999.

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