When you work in an office with a company car, the rules regarding accidents
may get tricky. What if you were borrowing the car to perform an errand
for work, such as picking up coffee or meeting a client? Is it still your
fault? Or maybe you were meeting some friends for drinks after working
overtime–you borrowed the company car and got hit. These situations
get messy, especially when an employer is reluctant to take responsibility.
Fortunately, if an employee crashes while performing duties related to
work or running errands for an employer, there may be employer liability.
This is more relevant in a case where a truck or commercial vehicle is
being driven for a company, and the company gets sued. This is the case
right now, as Walmart is currently being sued by comedian Tracy Morgan.
But what about a simple car accident that results in some damage to both cars?
The Negligent Employer
Often, employers are found responsible based on the principle of negligence.
If a company will have employees drive while on the job, it is their responsibility
to check driving records and ensure that the person behind the wheel does
not pose a danger to others or themselves. Employers must run checks that
all employees driving have current drivers licenses and have not been
suspended. It is also reasonable to ask if employees have been convicted
of any moving vehicle violations or have
DWI charges. Drug testing may also play a role in determining who should be
allowed behind the wheel.
Negligent supervision may also be a form of employer liability. For example,
if the company fails to inspect cars on time and perform regular, it may
be at fault. They are also required to make a reasonable effort to ensure
employees comply with safety laws. Laws about cargo loading and unloading
should be followed, and if the employer does not make an effort to ensure
the employee is driving safely they may be at fault.
We’ve all heard of living vicariously through someone else. But the
phrase can be used in legal proceedings to determine that an employer
was acting through the employee. Basically, the actions of an entity of
the company are treated as if the whole company was responsible. While
this law only applies if the entity was in the act of performing a service
for the employer, it can be applied to even the smallest of situations,
such as picking up an order at a print shop. A way of deciding whether
the action was company-related or not is the frolic verses detour method.
A detour is when a deviation in an employee’s path occurs that is
still related to the job. For example, if the employee realizes the car
is out of gas and takes a turn to fill up the tank and gets in an accident,
the employer is still at fault. These actions fall under the realm of
company activities. However, a frolic is a complete deviation from any
employment-related acts, such as stopping for a personal coffee or meeting
family members. The employer is absolved of responsibility. An employer
is also not responsible for intentional crimes committed by the employee,
such as purposefully driving the wrong way on a road marked “do
Even if the accident is the other party’s fault, the company must
still determine if the documents relating to insurance claims should be
sent to the company or employee. There can be a lot of confusion in these
regards, so call us if you ever feel you are being placed at-fault for
an accident that should be the responsibility of the company.