Your business may provide company cars to employees depending on the service you offer. Your team may drive company cars daily, or they may be available for certain scenarios. In any case, when your employee is in an accident while driving a company car, who is to blame and how to keep the employee and the vehicle protected may come into question.
Unfortunately, with about 6 million car accidents happening in the United States every year, on-the-job vehicle accidents are common. As the provider of the vehicle, your business may be accused of being negligent in certain situations. For example, one car accident attorney in Arizona points out, if the accident was caused by the vehicle malfunctioning, your business could be accused of improperly maintaining it.
Here’s what happens when an employee gets into a car accident in a company vehicle and how your business can stay protected.
First Thing’s First: Workers’ Compensation
When an employee is injured while working, workers’ compensation insurance for your business will offer them compensation for their injuries. Workers’ compensation won’t just help protect your business against lawsuits. It’s also required by law in most states.
You also need to worry about other drivers on the road when your business uses company cars. Each vehicle you use for your business must be insured, so that compensation can be provided to anyone who is injured.
With workers’ compensation and car insurance in place, minor fender benders and injuries are relatively simple to deal with. When your employee experiences a serious injury that impacts their ability to work or causes life-long damage, or when another passenger is seriously injured, things get much more complicated.
When Can Your Business Be Sued for Negligence in a Car Accident?
If an employee is driving a company car and gets into a serious accident, they may pursue legal action against the other driver because of negligent behavior, like drinking while driving or using a smartphone while driving.
If the employee is driving for work and feels like the accident was caused by you, the employer, they may also pursue action. As well, any driver who is involved in an accident with your employee may decide to pursue action against your business.
One reason why your business might face legal action after a company car accident is because the vehicle was unsafe to drive in. Some reasons why the company car may have been too dangerous to drive in include:
- The vehicle wasn’t properly maintained and malfunctions on the road
- The vehicle contains dangerous parts that have been recalled but were not removed by the employer
- The vehicle is missing a crucial element that improves safe driving, such as working brake lights
In cases like these, you may be to blame for not properly taking care of the car so that it is safe before your employee drives it. Depending on the severity of the injuries and the damages incurred from the accident, you and your business may be liable for damages.
Other parties may pursue legal action against your business if they feel you made poor hiring choices or irresponsibly lent a company vehicle to a certain employee, like one who wasn’t properly trained or who has an unsafe driving record. Because of the abundance of risks company cars pose for your business, it’s best to stay protected in all ways possible.
How to Protect Your Business Regarding Company Car Accidents
One major factor that will be examined in a lawsuit regarding an accident with a company car is whether the employee was driving for work. If an employee gets into an accident while driving a company car, but is driving for non-work purposes, the employee may be liable for the damages. For example, if an employee needs to drive to a building to perform a service but detours to grab coffee and gets in an accident at the coffee shop, they may be held liable.
Also, if the employee is exhibiting unlawful behavior while driving for a work-related task, they may be held liable. For example, if the employee is intoxicated or is driving over the speed limit, even if they’re on the clock and driving for work, their behavior may be negligent.
Even in cases like these, though, if the dangerous conditions of the vehicle are to blame for the accident, another party, like your business, may be deemed negligent. To protect your business in any case, follow these steps.
- Have workers’ compensation for all employees.
- Insure every company vehicle.
- Confirm vehicle insurance of any employee who is driving a company vehicle.
- Only allows responsible employees who have undergone driving background checks and who need a company vehicle for work use to operate one.
- Create a company vehicle policy and contract that explicitly states what is considered driving for work and what is not.
- Monitor how vehicles are being used to prevent an employee from using a vehicle for non-work-related activities.
- Properly maintain vehicles: get regular oil checks and overall automotive diagnostics.
- Equip vehicles with emergency preparedness kits, including bottled water, hazard lights and a first aid kit.
If an employee calls your business to tell you they’ve been in a serious car accident in a company vehicle, help them to get the emergency assistance they need, including police and medical services. If you head to the scene, document the damage and any potential evidence that shows the negligence of another driver or of your employee that may have contributed to the accident.
In cases where another person’s dangerous behavior is to blame for a car accident involving one of your company’s vehicles, you may wish to pursue legal action against the party to blame. Consult with a car accident lawyer to see what the best next option for your business may be.