Is My Company Liable if I Got into a Car Accident During Work Hours While Performing a Work Task in My Personal Car?
Getting into an auto accident is a traumatic experience. In addition to any injuries, you will also likely have stress about the accident, repairs, and accommodations while they are done. Furthermore, if an accident happens while you are working, those things can be compounded by other fears, such as job security and whether you or your employer are liable.
The Michigan Traffic Crash Reporting System Year End Summary reported 282,640 auto accidents in the state in 2021, up 15% from the year before. The report continues with information that most accidents occurred between 3 p.m. and 5:59 p.m., putting them squarely during regular business hours. So, if you regularly travel for work, state data indicates there is a good chance that an auto accident can happen when you are working.
You will need to navigate several systems if you are involved in a vehicular accident while working. Which ones you and other injured parties seek compensation from will depend on various factors. One of those is who is liable for damages. Depending on the situation, it could be you, the other driver, or your company. Let’s see one example of a situation where you are driving your personal vehicle for work tasks during work hours.
Conditions Under Which the Accident Occurred
The conditions under which an accident occurred can help determine if it is genuinely a work-related event. These include where you were, what you were doing, and what vehicle you were driving at the time. Employment status can also help determine if a company is liable for an accident or injuries. So let’s look more closely at each factor and how it impacts liability.
When Did the Accident Occur?
In this case, the accident occurred during regular working hours. That is critical in determining if your employer can be held liable for any injuries or trauma. Since state crash data shows that many accidents happen during regular business hours, this is not uncommon.
You are generally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured during work hours while performing work activities. These often include coverage of all medical expenses and partial wage replacement while you are out of work. However, workers’ comp doesn’t cover hidden costs, such as travel expenses and any emotional trauma from the accident.
In some cases, you may be able to pursue legal action against an employer, regardless of whether you receive unemployment benefits. The best way to examine your options is by speaking with an experienced accident attorney like those at the Mike Morse Law Firm. A free case evaluation can uncover your options so you can make an informed decision about getting compensation after a work-day auto accident.
What Were You Doing at the Time?
When you use a personal vehicle for work-related activities, you may be tempted to stop and run an errand or two. If that is the case, you were not technically working despite being on the clock. However, if you were doing something like making a delivery or purchasing supplies, you were clearly engaged in a work-related task.
There can often be ambiguities, but whether or not you were engaged in work-related activities at the time of the accident will help determine liability.
Whose Vehicle Were You Driving?
If you were driving your personal vehicle when the accident occurred, as in this example, you might bear some responsibility. However, that isn’t always the case. A full case review can help uncover the details of your accident and who is liable.
There is a reason that many companies advise against using personal vehicles for work tasks. When a company car is used, liability is more clear-cut than if you are using your own. That is why many companies follow manufacturer recommendations for service and repairs on fleet vehicles. However, in some cases, using a personal car is unavoidable.
Are You an Employee or an Independent Contractor?
The rise in gig workers and independent contractors adds a large grey area to workplace injuries. If you act as a subcontractor, you are technically self-employed and not covered by legal employer/employee protections. For example, workers’ compensation insurance generally does not cover independent workers.
Despite the lack of employee status, you may still be able to share liability with the company on whose behalf you were working. This is especially true for gig workers who operate on a platform that offers insurance. Many ride-share companies follow this policy, so if you were running a ride-share service when the accident occurred, you would want to look closely at this option.
Was It an At-Fault Accident?
Another factor at play is whether or not you were at fault for the accident. If the other driver were solely responsible, it would be difficult to assign liability to your company. However, if you were at fault or negligent, laws may allow victims to seek compensation from your employer.
Vicarious Liability Laws
Some laws assign vicarious liability to third parties when someone acts on their behalf. For example, these may lead to a company being liable for any damages caused by its employees after an auto accident. Damages often include personal injuries and property damage, but they may also include other items.
Vicarious liability laws protect employees because they move liability to an employer. They allow an accident victim to sue the employer for damages instead of the employee. For these laws to apply, you must have been acting on behalf of a company, such as performing regular work duties or running work errands, when the accident happened.
Things That May Affect Your Liability
Whether or not you or your company are liable for damages after an accident can hinge on details, some of which may appear minor at first. So let’s look closer to get a clearer picture of some things that may affect your or your employer’s liability.
The Condition of Your Vehicle
If the accident occurred because you were negligent in caring for your personal vehicle, you might have a more challenging time proving company liability. For example, if your brakes were severely worn and you failed to stop your car from hitting someone, you may bear some responsibility.
This is not a situation you want the insurance companies to sort out on their own. Vicarious liability laws may still protect. Contact one of our experienced attorneys to explore your options.
Certain personal actions will also weigh against you in an automobile accident. For example, if you were using illegal drugs or under the influence of alcohol at the time, that will be considered. Distracted driving is another consideration. Liability might be directed toward either driver if you or she was distracted at the time of the accident.
Schedule a Case Evaluation To Examine Liability
The attorneys at Mike Morse Law Firm have years of experience litigating personal injury and accident cases. We can help you determine an appropriate strategy for moving forward, including deciding if your company is liable for damages after a work-related accident.
Don’t worry about paying for an accident attorney. At the Mike Morse Law Firm, you never pay a fee until after we successfully handle your case. Contact our office today at (855) 645-3946 to schedule a free case evaluation.