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I Crashed the Company Car: Employer Liability

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.

Vicarious Liability

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 not enter".

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.

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