How is Fault Determined in Accidents Involving Company Vehicles?
There are plenty of vehicles on the roadway, and many of them are commercial vehicles. This means that they belong to companies, not individuals. Many people think buses and semi-trucks are the only types of commercial vehicles on the roadway. However, commercial vehicles range from passenger vehicles to large tractor-trailers. It is important to determine who is at fault when a crash occurs with a commercial vehicle.
Potential Complications with Company Vehicle Collisions
With any car accident, it is important that fault is determined. West Virginia is a “fault” accident state, meaning that insurance and lawsuit compensation will be determined based on who caused the crash. One or more personal vehicles are usually involved in car accidents, and it can be a little easier for fault to be determined – one of the drivers’ insurance companies will generally be responsible for covering injury and damage expenses.
When a company vehicle is involved, determining who will be responsible for covering these expenses could be more difficult. Even if a person driving the company vehicle caused the incident and was at fault, that does not mean that they are ultimately on the line for the damages. The company could be the one to pay.
Employer vs. Employee Negligence
It may be fairly clear that the driver caused the accident due to their negligence. However, the relationship between the employee and their employer falls under a doctrine called respondeat superior. This is a Latin term that means employers are legally responsible for their employee’s actions while the employee is acting within the scope of their employment.
If you are involved in an accident with a company vehicle, and the driver was acting within the scope of their duties when they caused a crash, the employer will likely be responsible for covering the expenses. Even if the employee is named in a lawsuit due to the crash, they will likely be covered by the employer’s liability coverage that will pay their legal fees.
However, the employer’s insurance will not usually cover a driver who causes an accident if the driver was participating in criminal activity or was using the vehicle for unauthorized personal uses. Many companies offer vehicles as perks but will require the driver’s insurance carrier to pay for accidents outside of business hours.
If You’re the One Driving a Company Car
If you were driving a company car and caused a crash, you need to ensure you seek medical attention as soon as possible. Notify your employer that the crash occurred. If you were driving as part of your regular work duties, your employer will likely be responsible for any damages and injuries. However, that does not mean that a person who was injured or sustained property damage will not come after you personally for the costs.
You should speak to an attorney about your case. Do not count on your company to take care of everything for you. Be proactive in these cases.
Why You Need a West Virginia Car Accident Attorney
These cases can become incredibly complex and often involve more parties than a regular car accident claim. A Charleston car accident attorney will have the resources and experience necessary to:
- Investigate the entire accident and gather all evidence necessary to prove fault.
- Work to determine whether liability lies with the employee of their employer.
- Ensure your total damages are properly calculated.
- Handle all communication and negotiations with other parties involved in the case.
- Be prepared to take your case to trial if necessary to secure the compensation you need.