When most people think of workers’ compensation, they think of compensation for injuries sustained on the job such as a machinery accident or a bad fall. Nowadays, using a company vehicle to perform work-related tasks is more and more common. If part of your job description involves driving or operating a company vehicle, you should inform yourself about how to get work comp for a car accident.
Understanding Workers’ Compensation
While workers’ compensation rules differ from state to state, most often, if you have sustained injuries that are work-related, you are owed workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits can cover a portion of or your entire medical expenses and lost wages due to missed work as a result of the injury.
What is Respondeat Superior?
The legal doctrine of respondeat superior covers the relationship between an employer and their employee that drives a company vehicle. This doctrine states that employers are legally responsible for their employee’s actions while they are acting under the umbrella of their employment. If an employee gets injured or experiences property damage while operating the company vehicle, the employer is obligated to pay for the injuries and property damage.
An employee is acting under the umbrella of their employment when driving a company vehicle to make deliveries, running a work-related errand, driving other employees for reasons that are work-related, work-related travel time, and driving to and from job sites. In most cases, if the employee is in an accident on their own time such as driving to and from work or when on a break, these incidents are not considered work-related.
What if the Employee is at Fault?
The aforementioned respondeat superior doctrine applies specifically to instances involving an employee being in an auto accident while driving a company car. In the event that that employee has caused another person’s injury or property damage, this is known as third-party involvement and both the employer and employee can be liable for damages and injuries. Third-party involvement can include the employee’s passengers, other drivers, or bystanders. However, in most cases, the employer’s liability insurance saves the employer from having to pay damages to any third parties.
What Does Compensatory Damages Cover?
Most often, compensatory damages cover out-of-pocket expenses, medical bills, lost wages due to recovery time, any added expenses due to pain and suffering. The employer’s liability insurance doesn’t just protect the employee from paying any damages, if an injury lawsuit is brought against the employee by a third party, the employer is obligated to pay for any relevant legal fees. Therefore, the employee is protected against third-party actions even when they are at fault, and the employee might even qualify for workers’ comp if they were also injured by the accident, regardless of whether or not it was their fault; this is known as a ‘no-fault’ system.
The one exception is if the employee was operating the company vehicle while committing a crime or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This type of situation can constitute a criminal action, and in that case, the employee has the right to refuse the indemnification of their employee, as well as workers’ comp for medical bills, lost wages, etc.
If you are considering taking on a job that involves driving a company vehicle or spending lots of time on the road doing work-related activities, you can take comfort that there are very few instances where you will not be compensated if you are involved in an auto accident. As long as it does not involve a criminal action or driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the no-fault system of worker’s comp will come through.