Brian White | July 8, 2023 | Car Accidents
Many businesses and other employers supply their employees with company cars. The reason is obvious: many jobs require a lot of driving. Employees use the car while on duty, but they might take it home at night as well.
If the Accident Was Your Fault
The situation could be distressing if you caused the accident yourself, and the fact that you were driving a company car might not help you. Being on duty at the time of the accident could be to your benefit, however.
The Doctrine of Respondeat Superior
The doctrine of respondeat superior is a form of vicarious liability that could shift liability for your accident from you to your company. Under respondeat superior, your employer is responsible for any wrongdoing you commit while acting within the scope of your duties. This rule does not protect you if you are an independent contractor – you must be an employee.
Remember, vicarious liability kicks in or fades out depending on whether you were furthering your employer’s business. If you were making a company delivery at the time of the accident, your company is probably liable for the accident. If, instead, you were driving to lunch or home after work, your company probably isn’t responsible.
Let’s assume the accident occurred when you were not furthering your employer’s business. In that case, your own auto liability insurance should cover the other party’s damages, at least up to your policy limits. You could bear personal liability for the remainder.
What if the Other Side Is Unfairly Blaming You for the Accident?
If the Accident Was Not Your Fault
If the accident was not your fault, it is you who will be filing a claim, not defending against one. This works just like any other claim. The at-fault driver will bear liability to both you (for your injuries and damages) and the company (for damage to the vehicle).
If the Drivers Share Fault for the Accident
If two or more parties share fault for the accident, Texas’s “modified comparative negligence” principles kick in. Any party more than 50% at fault can receive no damages, no matter how serious their injuries.
Any party whose percentage of fault is 50% or less can receive damages, but a court will deduct that party’s percentage of fault from their damages. If you were 30% at fault, for example, you would lose 30% of your damages.
Consequently, if the other driver was more than 50% at fault for the accident, your liability will be zero, and so there will be no liability to shift to your company.
Liability for Criminal Acts
Your company is not vicariously liable for any criminal act you might commit, such as DUI. You will bear personal liability for any damages arising from any such misconduct.
If You Were Hit by a Company Vehicle
If you were hit by a company vehicle, regardless of whether you were working for the company that owns the vehicle, the concept of vicarious liability will probably work in your favor. Now you don’t have to rely on the at-fault driver’s (likely) meager auto insurance.
Instead, you can sue the employer directly. They can pay your damages out of their own pocket, or they can rely on their own business liability insurance if they carry any. Click here to learn more about out-of-pocket expenses.
Workers’ Compensation Claims
If you were on duty at the time of the accident, you might be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. This possibility could apply even if the accident was your fault.
Contact a Houston Car Accident Lawyer to Help You With Your Claim
Claims can get complex when vicarious liability is involved. This is why you should schedule a free initial consultation with a Houston company vehicle accident lawyer if you were involved in a company car accident.
For more information, contact the Houston personal injury law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000
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Houston, TX 77098
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