So, You've Been Involved In A Company Vehicle Accident: Who Exactly Is Liable?
Some people know the steps that are involved after a motor vehicle accident. However, not many are aware of what should happen following an accident in a company vehicle. Is your employer responsible or are you? Since it isn't uncommon for jobs to require driving, even if it is just for a simple errand, it is important to know the answer to that question if you ever find yourself in a vehicle accident in a company car. Read on to learn more.
Under the respondeat superior doctrine, it may be determined that your employer is fully or partially responsible for your accident, but there are certain requirements that must be met. This will require that the accident occurred throughout employment with the company and will only apply if the accident occurred while on the clock and if the errand or task was job-related. It will be up to the employee (possibly along with a lawyer) to prove that the accident occurred while you were acting within the scope of your job duties.
For example, if you were in the company vehicle to pick up pizza for dinner and you got into an accident, your employer cannot be held liable. You were committing an act or task outside of your scope of employment, as you were running a personal errand. However, if you normally work until 5 p.m. and you were driving down the road to pick up some paperwork across town at 2 p.m. (during your workday), then your employer can likely be held liable.
Frolic vs. Detour
Frolic and detour can get a bit tricky, but it can often be the best way to determine if your employer can be held responsible or not. If a detour occurs, which means that you slightly deviated from the acts outlined within your scope of employment, your employer may be liable. For example, if you were on your way to meet a client in a company car and made a slight detour in order to put gas in the vehicle, your employer can be held liable if you get into an accident. Another example would be getting into an accident after work when you are your way to a client dinner that your employer arranged.
However, if frolic occurs, which means that you've deviated so much outside of the scope of employment that you are acting for your own benefit and not your employer's, then you are the sole person who can be held accountable for any and all damages occurred if the accident was your fault. For example, if you were using the company car after business hours to meet your friends at a local pub and you got into an accident, your employer could not be held liable.
These are the basics when it comes to holding an employer liable for car accidents in company vehicles. Liability for any accident, whether in a company vehicle or a personal vehicle, can be rather complicated. For this reason, you may want to consider consulting with an auto accident attorney, like those at the Knochel Law Offices, P.C., to determine whether you are responsible or if there is any liability on your employer's part.