Who Pays When You Get into an Accident While Driving a Company Vehicle?
Many employers provide company cars to their employees.
Whether it is a bread delivery truck or a sedan for a pharmaceutical sales representative, the vehicle is intended for company use.
Though employees benefit from using a company car while working instead of racking up mileage on their personal vehicle, many people wonder, If I get in a car accident on company time, who pays?
This is a valid concern. In this post, we answer that question and explain your options.
If I Caused an Accident in a Company Vehicle, Who Pays?
As a general rule, whenever you act within the scope of your employment, your employer is responsible for your conduct. This falls under a legal concept called vicarious liability.
It means that, because you are doing work your employer requires you to do, your employer is vicariously liable for your actions, even if you are negligent.
So if you were at fault for the car accident while driving for work, your employer is liable for the other driver’s damages.
Your employer should also cover any medical costs you incur, though we will discuss that more later.
It gets a little more complicated if you caused the accident while using the vehicle in some way unrelated to work.
If you stopped at a store to buy something for a family member or detoured to visit a friend, your employer most likely would not be liable for the damages.
In that case, the other driver could sue you and file a claim against your personal insurance policy.
If the Other Driver Caused the Accident, Who is Responsible?
When another driver is at fault for hitting you while you are driving your company’s vehicle, the other driver is responsible for your injuries as well as your employer’s vehicle damages.
This is true whether you were working at the time or using the car for a personal matter.
An attorney can help you seek compensation through insurance or via a lawsuit, if necessary.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Factor In?
South Carolina requires most businesses with four or more employees to maintain workers’ compensation coverage.
This insurance kicks in if an employee suffers a work-related injury.
It provides medical benefits, lost wages, and coverage if you suffer a permanent disability.
Thus, whether you or another driver was at fault in a car accident while driving a company car, your first step would be filing a claim if workers’ compensation covers you.
What If I Am Not Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is typically unavailable for workers whose company has fewer than four employees or an annual payroll of less than $3,000.
Other exempt groups include:
- Agricultural employees,
- State and county fair associations,
- Railroad and railway express companies,
- Federal employees, and
- Certain commission-paid real estate agents.
These individuals would need to pursue compensation for their injuries from the at-fault driver.
An attorney can help you research whether you have workers’ compensation coverage. They can also deal with obtaining compensation from the other driver’s insurance company.
What About Expenses Not Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Even if your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, there are many gaps in the coverage. For example, employees cannot recover pain and suffering under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.
Also, if you miss work because of your injuries, you receive temporary lost wages only after seven days. The payments are only applied retroactively to your first day of incapacity if you miss more than 14 days.
The same is true if you receive temporary partial compensation while on work restriction.
Thus, the carrier will not necessarily pay for all the work you miss. And, you only receive two-thirds of your pre-injury wages. This shortfall can leave many injured workers in a tough spot.
So if you are in a company car accident, who pays for excess expenses you suffered and cannot recover from workers’ compensation?
Here again, your best bet is to retain an experienced personal injury attorney who can file a lawsuit against the third-party driver who caused the accident.
In this way, you can fight to recover for your pain and suffering, unpaid lost wages, and other losses.
Unfortunately, whatever recovery you receive will not be paid directly to you, free and clear, if you settle or win at trial.
Section 42-1-560 of South Carolina’s workers’ compensation law allows the workers’ compensation carrier to place a lien on the proceeds of any recovery. Once the carrier pays expenses and its lien, it will apply any excess payments as a credit against future compensation benefits for the same injury.
Only after the Workers’ Compensation Commission calculates how much money it needs to hold in a fund for future benefits payments will it pay the remaining balance to the employee.
You Need an Attorney to Protect Your Interests
As this article makes clear, when you are involved in an accident in a company car, who pays the damages is not clear cut.
And the other parties involved will be looking out for their own best interests, not yours.
That is why you need an experienced personal injury attorney who focuses only on how to make you whole again.
At the Peace Law Firm, we represent the people of Greenville, South Carolina, not employers and not insurance companies.
For over 20 years, our firm has focused on fighting for the highest compensation possible so our clients can move forward with their lives. Call us today for a free consultation.