Is My Employer Liable for My “On-The-Job” Car Accident?
A lot of people need their vehicles in order to carry out their daily job activities. Many employers are under the impression that once their employee leaves the premises, gets in their own car with their own insurance, and drives away, they are excused of all liability for their employees. Contrary to this popular belief, when an employee is driving as part of their work-related activities and is in a car accident, their employer may also have liability. However, it is important to note that the employee may also have some liability.
Workmen compensation laws permit employees to recover monetary benefits as a result of getting injured during the course of their employment. This can occur even if the employees are working “off premises” as long as they are on the clock. Many individuals understand this concept. What is less understand is the concept of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability basically means that your employer may have liability for your actions while operating a vehicle where you were performing activities during the course of your employment. In other words, if you are negligent and cause damage to another individual or to property while operating your vehicle, your employer may be held liable for your negligence—alongside you. It is also important to note that vicarious liability can attach to an employer for their employee’s conduct behind the wheel even where the employee is not negligent. The following list includes examples of circumstances for which an employer could be held vicariously liable for their employee’s car accident:
- Driving “on the job” or “during the course of employment” for work-related activities;
- Any activity performed for the benefit of the employer; or
- Any other activity or action undertaken at the request of the employer.
Understanding vicarious liability is important because it gives injured victims the right to sue the employer for any injuries they sustain as a result of the employee’s car accident. Having said that, sometimes the key question of whether the employer is liable for their employee’s acts is determining whether the employee was “on the job” or performing tasks “during the course of employment” while driving. While the answer to this question varies from state to state and is very fact-dependent, most courts generally agree that an employee is considered “on the job” anytime they are performing a duty or task related to their employment—even if personal tasks are also involved.
The following are examples of “on the job” activities:
- Work-related tasks during the employee’s lunch break;
- Traveling to or from work and making a work-related stop along the way; or
- Driving your vehicle after work hours to complete a task that benefits the employer
The following are examples of activities that are not considered “on the job”:
- Traveling to work or home from work—without performing any work-related tasks;
- Driving and making personal stops during the employee’s lunch break; or
- Performing a personal errand during work hours (e.g., visit to friend)
These situations can be challenging to handle, especially where issues of vicarious liability are involved or where no one appears to be at fault—or negligent—for the resulting car accident. There are also many exceptions to the above conditions of what does and does not constitute “on the job” activities. Therefore, it is imperative for the parties to seek out the legal services of a personal injury attorney with experience in employer-related liability for their employees’ activities. An attorney can guide the parties through the lawsuit, advise them on their rights, get the compensation needed for injuries, and fight to avoid liability.