Who Pays if You’re in an Accident in a Company Car?
Unsurprisingly, many accidents occur while in a company car. Legal liability issues, however, can be a little more complex to analyze. For example, who pays compensation to an injured motorist—you or the company that owns the car? What happens if you are injured while riding in the vehicle? These are some of the questions that pop up when our clients come to us after a wreck in a company car.
At Naqvi Injury Law, we can analyze a crash to determine whose insurance should pay damages for a car accident in a company vehicle. This is a fact-specific area of law, so getting the right attorney in your corner is important. Our Las Vegas car accident attorney is happy to meet to discuss your accident.
When Your Employer is Liable for an Accident
Many employers are legally liable when their employee gets into an accident in a company car. Nevada has a concept called “vicarious liability” that often comes into play. This legal concept basically means that an employer is automatically accountable for their employees’ actions when the employee injures someone within the scope of their employment.
That last bit is key—the employee must have been furthering their employer’s business in some capacity at the time of the accident, otherwise, there is no vicarious liability. For example, if you were driving to a conference or to meet a client, then you are “on the job,” even if you are not at the job site. Your employer would be vicariously liable for any injuries that you caused while driving the company car.
The legal analysis shifts if you were driving the company car to take your children to ice skating practice on a Saturday, or if you were driving home at the end of the day. In these examples, you are not driving in the normal course of your job. Indeed, whenever you take any trip on your own initiative—even a pit stop to pick up a cup of coffee—then you are not acting within the scope of your employment.
Fault & Car Accidents
Of course, your employer is not vicariously liable unless you are at fault for the crash. Typically, drivers are at fault when they make some mistake that leads to a collision, such as:
- Failure to yield
- Failure to use a turn signal
- Driving too closely
- Improper lane change
- Distracted driving
- Driving while fatigued
Simple carelessness can also make a person at fault for an accident. As an example, a driver might be too lazy to look in their mirrors and over their shoulder before backing out of a parking space. If they strike someone, then they are at fault.
Nevada recognizes comparative fault, as found in NRS 41.141. This means that two or more parties could be to blame for a wreck. Some accidents are not black-and-white. For example, one driver might have sped through an intersection, but the other didn’t use a turn signal to turn. In this example, both drivers have made some errors that contributed to an accident.
To receive compensation, a victim cannot be more than 50% to blame for the collision. If they are, then the law bars them from recovery. So an employer will be vicariously liable only if you were 50% or more at fault when driving the company car.
Criminal Actions & Vicarious Liability
Interestingly, there are limits to vicarious liability, even if an employee is allegedly acting in the normal scope of employment. For example, a person might be using a company car to travel to an overnight conference. In the evening, the employee drives to a bar and gets drunk. While driving back to the hotel, he slams into a car and injures people.
Here, the employer is probably not vicariously liable for the accident because the employee was more than merely negligent—he committed a crime. Whenever an employee commits a crime, then the employer usually can avoid vicarious liability.
Personal Liability for Accidents when Driving a Company Car
Sometimes, an employee will be responsible for paying compensation. Typically, this happens when vicarious liability does not apply. For example, you might have run a personal errand while driving the company vehicle. The victim you struck cannot sue your employer, so they will come after you personally.
Alternatively, you might have committed a crime when you struck someone. Here, too, you can be sued, and you are responsible for paying compensation if you were at fault.
Check that you have insurance that covers the company car. If you do, then the policy might cover the accident. If not, you could be sued personally, and the victim could come after your personal assets.
Receiving Compensation when You Are the Victim
Thus far, we have imagined that the employee is at fault for the collision. But what happens if another driver is to blame? Can you receive compensation if you were struck while driving your company car?
There is a simple answer: Yes. You can make a claim on that driver’s insurance for things like the cost of medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You should ask for the driver’s insurance information at the scene of the accident and report the collision promptly.
However, if the other driver is uninsured, then you will need to look further afield to find sufficient compensation for your injuries. For example, you might qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. These are no-fault benefits that can pay for medical care and replace a portion of lost wages when a worker is injured in the course of work. Workers’ comp benefits are not ideal. Principally, they will not pay for pain and suffering, but they at least cover a portion of the financial losses.
You might also have an uninsured or underinsured motorist policy that covers the company car, especially if you drive this vehicle regularly.
In some cases, you might have a claim against your employer that provided you with the car. For example, they might have given you a defective car that malfunctions and leads to a crash. If the brakes fail soon after you get it, then you might claim that a defect is to blame.
Determining Fault & Vicarious Liability
Not every accident is clear-cut. Often, memories conflict and each driver involved in the crash might point the finger at the other. In this type of dispute, who decides liability?
Generally, insurance adjusters will hash out the details between themselves. They will decide:
- Fault: who is to blame
- Vicarious liability: if the employee was to blame, was he or she acting in the course of employment
Unfortunately, insurance companies might disagree on one or more issues, in which case the dispute could go to trial. A judge or jury will have to decide both fault and vicarious liability. You will probably have to testify about where you were going and what you were doing in the trip that led to the accident.
Lawsuits are rarely ideal. However, if you have insurance, then the insurer should be willing to pay for an attorney. If you were injured in the crash, you might find and hire your own lawyer.
Protect Yourself—Contact Naqvi Injury Law Today
Our team of attorneys can help you untangle legal liability issues, including whether vicarious liability applies. For assistance, please schedule a free consultation with a Las Vegas car accident attorney today.