Determining who pays after a car accident is slightly more complicated when you’re in an accident in your company car. Your employer may be liable for the other party’s damages, and in some cases, you may be to blame.
The answer of who pays depends on the reason you were driving the company car and the exact circumstances of the crash. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s essential to understand the ways Nevada law handles the different aspects of these types of cases. You can then work with your car accident attorney to determine how the circumstances of your situation may affect the outcome of your case.
What is Vicarious liability?
Vicarious liability means to hold someone accountable for the actions of someone else. In the case of an accident in a company car, it means to hold the employer responsible for the actions of the employee who drove the car.
An employer can be the one liable for something that their employee does. That’s because the employee is the agent of the employer when they’re driving for work. Vicarious liability is also called respondeat superior.
Issues of Fault
Even though you may have an employer that paid for your company car, for the other side to look to your employer to recover, you must be at fault for the accident. Nevada’s laws of comparative negligence still apply. Comparative negligence means that if you’re more at fault for the accident than anyone else, you can’t recover from anyone for your damages.
Another driver might want to try to hold your employer accountable for the crash because they might think the employer has the most money to pay of those connected to the accident. Lawyers sometimes call this looking for deep pockets. However, they can’t hold your employer liable unless you’re actually at fault for the collision. The same rules of fault and proving negligence apply just like they do in accident cases without a company vehicle.
When Does Vicarious Liability Apply?
The primary test for deciding if vicarious liability applies is to determine whether the employee is acting within the scope of their employment when the accident occurs.
For example, a plumbing service dispatches a plumber to make a house call. On the way, the employee runs a stop sign and hits and injures another driver. In that case, the other driver can bring a case against the employer using vicarious liability. The employee was acting in the course of their employment as they traveled to the appointment with the customer.
When Vicarious Liability Applies
Vicarious liability may apply in any of the following situations:
- Traveling to and from an appointment with a client
- Running errands for work
- Heading to a training meeting
- Any other place your employer directs you to drive
When Vicarious Liability Doesn’t Apply
Vicarious liability usually doesn’t apply in these cases:
- When you’re driving to or from work
- Stopping for coffee while you’re driving to an appointment
- Going other places besides where your employer tells you to go
- When you’re committing a crime like drunk driving
- Other driving that’s outside the scope of your employment
Workers Compensation and Liability Insurance
If you’re injured in a company car, you need to think about how workers’ compensation may factor into your case. In cases where the other driver is at fault for the accident, your workers’ compensation may be essential.
The other driver may not have an adequate insurance policy, and they may not be able to pay you for your damages. If that’s the case, you may gain a lot more from the workers’ compensation system than you stand to gain from your claim against the other driver. Your attorney can help you figure out your best options for recovery in light of all of the circumstances.
When Are You Personally Liable?
You could be on the hook any time that you veer from your employer’s duties. That is, if you’re on the way to training and you decide to stop at a friend’s house who lives nearby, you’re personally liable if you cause an accident during the side trip.
When your employer tells you to drive to the store to pick up a few things, you’re on the hook if you stop at the park for a nap and cause an accident on the way. The court is going to look at whether you were doing what your employer directed you to do when the accident occurred.
You’re almost always the liable party if you’re committing a crime while you’re driving. For example, if you go to a work training event and you drink too much, you’re on the hook if your drunk driving hurts someone on the way home.
Alternatively, if you decide to drive recklessly and you hurt someone, the other driver can’t hold the employer liable for that. When your driving amounts to a crime, it’s almost always outside the scope of your employment which means that vicarious liability doesn’t apply.
If your case goes to trial, it might be the judge or the jury that decides whether vicarious liability applies. Vicarious liability often depends on the facts of the case. There may be legitimate questions about where you were going and with whose authority. It might come down to whether your actions were criminal or whether you were back on track after your trip to the coffee shop.
When there are questions about the facts of the case, it’s up to the jury to decide who’s telling the truth. On the other hand, if the employer and the other party agree on the facts of the case, it comes down to how the law applies to those facts. In that case, the judge can decide the issue before it ever gets to the jury.
Making Your Best Case
If you have been in an auto accident in a company car, it’s important to hire an experienced accident attorney immediately. Your attorney can help you understand how Nevada’s comparative negligence law applies in your case to determine fault and can examine the facts to determine if vicarious liability applies.
If you’re hurt while you’re in a company car, your attorney can help you pursue recovery from every angle. Often, the case against the responsible driver and the claim for recovery from your employer are intertwined. Your attorney’s knowledge can help you make sure that you get the total recovery you deserve in a way that’s as straightforward as possible.