So you get into a car accident with the company car. What do you do? Some will readily conclude that the company’s hotshot lawyers will handle it and that you need not worry too much. Even some employees assume that the company’s insurance always has them covered in case they figure in a car accident. According to auto accident lawyers at Wagner Jones, it’s important for you to keep in mind that you can hire your own legal representation.
Note that the money used in settlements for cases involving your company’s fleet of vehicles comes from its car insurance company. Despite what their advertisements seem to suggest, insurance companies are not exactly happy campers when paying out insurance claims. They don’t make money this way. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that they would prefer it if they can find ways to deny you compensation.
So what should you do if you are involved in a car accident while driving a company car?
Legal Terms to Remember
In most cases of car accidents, one of the first steps in the investigation is to determine which driver is primarily responsible for the accident. For cases involving a company car, investigators will also have to find out if the employee driving the car or the company who owns the vehicle was to blame.
It pays to understand the following terminologies that are used in the investigation, claims, settlement case or litigation if it comes to that.
1. Negligence. This happens if the driver failed to act responsibly and reasonably to prevent the accident.
2. Liability. Investigators assign liability to the party or parties they deem as responsible for the accident.
3. Damages. Usually refers to costs and expenses that result from the accident such as damage to property and medical treatment costs.
When Your Company is to Blame
Under the law, employers are mostly responsible for their employees who are simply performing their assigned tasks for the company. In other words, the bosses are legally answerable for the actions of employees who are simply doing their jobs. The scope of an employer’s responsibility includes shouldering the compensation for injuries and damages caused by their employees while driving a company vehicle.
The company’s insurers also protect the employee from making personal payments for any damages that resulted from the accident. If the incident cannot be settled out-of-court, then the insurance will likewise pay for the legal fees of the employee if a lawsuit is filed against him.
When You are to Blame for the Car Accident
The insurance company who is providing coverage for your company may refuse to give you compensation for any of the following reasons:
Non-work related car use. The insurance company will try to determine if you are using the company car for any non-work related driving such as for running personal errands, taking your kids to school or when driving after normal business hours.
Illegal activity. If ever you are proven to be using the company car for any illegal activity that led to the accident, your employer will not indemnify you and might even lodge a case against you.
Using your own car. If you are doing your assigned job within your work hours, but you used your own vehicle, you likely won’t be covered.
How Should You Handle a Car Accident With a Company Car
It will be a mistake to immediately assume that your company and the insurance company will “take care of everything” when you are involved in an accident while driving a company vehicle. It’s in your best interest to protect yourself by hiring a personal injury lawyer to represent you, give you advice and explain your options.
Having a lawyer on your side looking after your best interest will also help put your company and the insurance company in check. You don’t want to be taken by surprise by being thrown under the bus.