You just got involved in a car crash, and the at-fault driver was driving a company vehicle or their work van for their job. Who is liable for your injuries and losses? Is it the at-fault driver, or the company?
This is a common dilemma in California, and most accident victims don’t know who to hold liable after such accidents. Even if a company driver’s negligence caused the accident, navigating the complexities of such cases is often difficult.
For this reason, you need an attorney who fully understands California Vehicle Code section 17150 and other applicable laws that might affect your claim.
Vicarious Liability in California
According to California law, if an individual is driving a company vehicle, the employer is liable for losses and injuries resulting from a crash if the driver is at fault. The employer may be liable for torts (such as personal injury damages from an accident) committed by the driver within the scope and course of work. California’s vicarious liability law applies to both public and private entities.
Moreover, accident victims who suffer injuries and losses from this type of road accident, be it the driver, a passenger, or pedestrian, can sue the employer to recover damages. Employers share fault for the accident and can also get sued if the negligent employee was within the course and scope of their duties.
When Are Employers Vicariously Liable for Car Accidents?
According to California’s respondent superiors law, a company can be held vicariously liable for employees’ actions if the following conditions were present at the time of the accident:
- The accident happened within the scope of the employee’s position.
- The employee was fully or partly engaged in work-related tasks to the company’s benefit when the accident occurred.
- As part of their job, the at-fault employee was authorized to operate the vehicle.
Employers can also be liable for accidents caused by poorly trained, vetted, and supervised employees. For instance, if a company hires a driver with a DUI history, it may be liable for crashes caused by that driver.
Employers are often held liable for oversights in hiring and supervision. They must exercise due diligence and ensure they hire safe drivers. Employers also need to vet and train whoever they hire to minimize the risk of accidents caused by company vehicles.
When Are Employees Liable for Company Car Accidents?
When pursuing a claim for your losses and injuries, it’s essential to note that employers aren’t always liable for car accidents caused by their employees. Sometimes, employees driving company cars cause accidents, but their employers aren’t liable for the subsequent damages. Typical cases wherein employees might be liable include:
- They were using the company vehicles for non-work-related tasks such as picking their kids up from school. There might be exceptions if an employee was performing personal and work-related tasks simultaneously.
- They were commuting to or from work, unless they had to stop for work-related tasks along the way.
Employees Vs. Independent Contractors
With more companies hiring independent contractors, one question that comes to mind is: who is liable when these independent contractors cause accidents while at work? The employer/employee relationship differs from the employer/independent contractor relationship when it comes to vicarious liability.
Employers aren’t vicariously liable for the actions of independent contractors. Nonetheless, safety is still a non-delegable duty that can’t get entrusted to someone else. In other words, employers can still be held liable for the negligent acts of the independent contractors they hire.
So, if these contractors cause accidents, a company might be liable for your injuries and losses. It’s common for companies facing claims resulting from an accident by independent contractors to deny liability. You need an aggressive car accident lawyer to pinpoint the liable party and help you recover your damages.
Damages You May Recover in a Company Car Accident
California law entitles you to recover certain damages after getting involved in an accident caused by a company car. These include:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Property damage
- Physical impairment/disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
In California, your claim will only be considered if you file it within two years of the date of the accident. The statute of limitations for minors is extended until they reach 18 years old. You can’t file a compensation claim or lawsuit if the two-year limit elapses. Therefore, it’s best to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as you suffer damages in a company car accident for your claim to be filed early.
Company Car Accidents Involving Death
If someone dies as a direct result of an accident with a company vehicle, a wrongful death claim can be brought against the liable parties. In this case, the victim’s beneficiaries and loved ones may be entitled to compensation. Monetary compensation cannot erase the injustice and pain of losing a loved one in a car accident, but it can help cover the resultant costs and provide for the future.
Injured in a Company Vehicle Accident? Contact an Experienced Attorney
Accident cases involving company vehicles are often hard to navigate. Oftentimes, employers claim that the drivers weren’t in the scope and course of their work at the time of the accident. They’re also likely to lawyer up in anticipation of your claim, which is why you also need to have a skilled personal injury lawyer.
Our team at AttorneyJeff Injury Lawyers wields years of experience representing car accident victims in California. So, if you or a loved one suffered losses and injuries in a company vehicle accident, contact us at 888-313-1984 to schedule a free case review.
FAQs About Accidents with a Company Vehicle
What if I’m partly responsible for the accident?
California isn’t a fault state. Therefore, you can still pursue and potentially recover compensation if you suffer losses after getting hit by a company vehicle.
Why do I need an attorney when pursuing a compensation claim?
The liable parties’ insurers won’t play nice. They’ll try to undercut you or refuse to acknowledge the extent of your injuries and claim, so you undoubtedly need a lawyer to work on your behalf.