Work-Related Auto Accidents: Who Is Responsible?

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Car accidents can happen in any place, at any time—even on the job. Workplace vehicle accidents are more common than you think. Whether you drive a vehicle regularly as a part of your job or only while performing work-related errands, collisions that occur while you are performing your work duties require additional considerations.

In work-related car accidents, who is responsible for the damages? Is my employer responsible for damage to my vehicle, or are employees responsible for damage to company vehicles? When an employee causes an accident while on the job, the employer is generally responsible. However, there are also situations in which an employer can be held responsible for an employee’s crash—even if the employee was driving the company vehicle off the clock at the time of the collision.

Below we address some common scenarios and legal options.

Work Related Car Accident: Who Will Pay?

After a work-related car accident, an employer is often responsible if the employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the crash. However, the “going and coming” rule prevents employers from bearing liability for accidents that occur when their employees are not on-the-clock. This includes commuting times, as well as lunch breaks. However, exceptions do exist. That is why it is important to speak to an experienced car accident attorney to discuss your unique situation.


The employer will have to pay for the damages if the actions of the employee fall under the doctrine of vicarious liability which states:

  • The employee’s actions fell under the scope of employment
  • The accident occurred while the employee was on job
  • The accident happened while the employee was performing a task, which he/she was hired for
  • The employer would have benefited from the activity that was being carried out by the employee at the time of the accident

If none of these points apply to the particular situation, then the employer or his insurance company is not liable to pay for the damages caused by the accident. However, if the employer is found liable for the accident then their company insurance policy will cover the damages that need to be paid to a third party who has been injured in the accident.



In certain instances, the employee may be held liable for a work vehicle accident. An employee is held responsible for the incident if:

  • The employee was running a personal errand when he/she got into an accident
  • The employee was committing a crime when he got into the accident

Also, for the most part, an employer is not liable if you are commuting to work from home, even if you are in a company vehicle. If you are found liable for the work vehicle accident, the employer or his insurance will not cover any third-party damages.


Third party:

As with any accident, if the accident was caused due to the negligence of a third party, then the third party is held liable for the damages, which are paid to the employer and employee. Furthermore, if a worker is injured in a work vehicle accident while on duty due to a third party’s negligence, the employee can seek the workers’ compensation from the employer and damages from the third party.


What is Considered a Company Vehicle?

Commercial and company vehicles are cars, vans, trucks and buses that are owned and operated by a company to be used by employees or agents of that company. Typical uses of company vehicles are to carry work equipment, to haul goods, to transport non-employee passengers, and to provide employees with work-related transportation.

A few examples of company vehicles are:

  • 18-wheeler
  • Agricultural truck
  • Car carrier
  • Cargo van
  • Catering truck
  • Cement mixer
  • Construction vehicles
  • Corporate automobiles
  • Delivery van
  • Dump truck
  • Fifth wheel truck
  • Flatbed truck
  • Fleet vehicle
  • Garbage truck
  • Hearse
  • Ice cream truck
  • Limousine
  • Passenger car or van
  • Repair vans
  • Ridesharing service vehicles (Uber, Lyft)
  • School bus
  • Semi-truck
  • Taxicab or shuttle
  • Tow truck
  • Tractor-trailer


What to Do After a Crash with A Company Vehicle

Every car accident is different, but the aftermath of a company car crash can be especially tricky. After a wreck with a commercial vehicle, follow these steps for best results:

  • Call for help. In addition to receiving medical care, you should call 911 to summon police to the scene. A police accident report can be crucial evidence in a car accident case.
  • Take photos and collect info. Take plenty of photos of the accident scene and the damaged vehicles. Get as many photos as you safely can to show the entire scene and close ups of the damage. Collect identifying information including the driver’s name, the name of the company they work for, their employee ID number, license plate number, and proof of insurance.
  • Fill out an accident report. In addition to getting a police report, you should also ensure an accident report is filled out by the company who owns the commercial vehicle. You or your company car crash lawyer can obtain a copy of this report.
  • Hire a lawyer. After any accident, the most important step — beyond treating any injuries, of course — is getting legal representation. Your car accident lawyer can help you determine fault by collecting evidence.
  • Figure out who will pay. Once fault is determined, you can figure out which insurance policies can help cover the victims’ expenses.


What Happens When a Crash Occurs While an Employee is ON the Clock?

When an employee is on the clock, they are acting as an agent for the company that employees them. As such, companies are generally responsible for the actions of the employee. This relationship-based liability is known as respondeat superior which literally means “let the master answer.”

So, when an accident occurs while an employee is on the job, the employer may be expected to answer for the employee’s actions and is subject to liability for the employee’s offense.


What Happens When a Crash Occurs While an Employee is OFF the Clock?

If an employee is driving a company vehicle off the clock when an accident occurs, the employer may still be liable for the crash in certain situations.

Even if the vehicle is not defective and the crash was entirely the fault of the off-the-clock employee, California law says that companies and employers can be held responsible for providing the employee with a vehicle if the employee’s actions demonstrate that he or she was a reckless, careless, or incompetent driver.


Proving the Driver Was ‘On the Job’

Critical to getting the employer (or the employer’s insurance company) to shoulder responsibility is proving the accident happened while the employee/driver was on the job. Questions that must be answered in the affirmative include:

  • Was the employee performing a work-related errand at the request of the employer?
  • Was the employee driving from business site to business site under the terms of employment?
  • Did the employer benefit from the employee’s activity?

None of the above matters if the driver cannot meet the test of being an employee. That is, as part of his/her day-to-day work life, did the company direct what the worker does, when it will be done, and where it will be done? If so, the driver qualifies as an employee.


Commercial Auto Accident Damages

Damages from a work-related accident claim include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Wrongful death and burial expenses
  • Lost income


Can You File a Lawsuit Against an Employer After a Car Accident?

Filing a workers’ compensation claim typically prevents you from filing a lawsuit against your employer over the same accident. Unless someone else other than your employer is responsible for your collision, filing a workers’ compensation claim is usually your only avenue to recovery. If you are unsure which option is right for you, speak with your attorney.


Filing a Car Accident Claim Against a Third-Party

If your car accident was caused by another person or entity’s negligence, you may have grounds for legal action. Although a workers’ compensation claim may prevent you from pursuing a lawsuit against your employer, you could hold a third party liable through a personal injury claim in California civil court.


Should You Speak with an Attorney?

If you have suffered a substantial injury as the result of another party’s negligence, the laws of the state of California allow you to seek damages to recover from your injuries. And you should.

Often, people underestimate the impact an injury will have on their lives. Or perhaps they just don’t think it will be worth the trouble of making a claim.

Our legal team at Duque Law Group is comprised of award-winning and nationally recognized trial lawyers who collaborate with nurses, doctors and medical experts regularly. Though we understand the nature of injuries, we are not physicians, and always encourage victims to seek treatment as soon after an accident as possible, and to follow up and heed their doctors’ advice.

Call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.


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