What to Do if You Are in an Accident in a Work Vehicle? Who Pays?

By | July 6, 2016

Auto accident cases hinge on determining who or what was responsible for an accident. Typically, the answer is a negligent driver, rough roadway conditions, or factors outside of your control. Accidents involving company or work vehicles, however, raise many questions regarding fault, responsibility, liability, insurance, and workers’ compensation. When you are involved in a car accident in a work vehicle, your employer owes certain legal responsibilities to you as an employee.

Employers’ Legal Responsibilities in Los Angeles

Federal and state laws mandate that employers are responsible for the actions of their employees, as long as employees were acting within a reasonable scope of their employment, according to InjuryClaimCoach.com. This includes employees driving company vehicles, or their own personal vehicles, for work purposes. When an employee drives a company car, truck, construction vehicle, or other motorized vehicle, the employer is responsible for the employee’s actions. This includes time spent delivering goods, commuting from job to job, and any other work-related duties.

When an employee’s negligence causes an accident in a work vehicle, the courts can hold both the employer and the employee responsible for paying the damages to injured third parties. Those parties may include drivers and passengers in another vehicle, passengers in the work vehicle, and pedestrians. If you were a passenger of a work vehicle in an accident, the court considers you a third party and your employer legally has to pay damages. But what if you were the driver of the work vehicle?

Employee Personal Errands during Work Related Trips

There is a grey area when it comes to what constitutes a “work related trip”. So what happens if an employee gets into an accident while running a personal errand during their commute to or from the office? In cases like Moradi vs. Marsh in 2013, the courts ruled that if an employee is required to use their personal vehicle to get to-and-from work, and an accident occurs during a personal errand detour within a regular commute trip, then that employee should be covered under the employer’s liability insurance. This was due to the fact that this particular trip was during a typical work commute, and because the trip had benefits for the employer, they were deemed responsible to pay for damages.

Who Pays Your Legal Fees?

If you were the negligent driver in an accident involving a work vehicle, injured third parties may try to sue you as well as your company. In these situations, your employer’s liability insurance will pay your legal fees if someone holds a lawsuit against you. Your employer is responsible for your actions while on work-related duties. This includes providing you with a lawyer in the event an injured third party takes you to court.

The only instance where your employer would not pay your legal fees is if you were committing a crime in a company vehicle. If your accident involved any criminal action, your employer can legally refuse to pay your legal fees if a third party takes you to court. If you sustained an injury in a company vehicle accident while engaged in any criminal activity, workers’ compensation can also deny you coverage for any damages—including lost wages, medical bills, and lost earning capacity.

Does Workers’ Compensation Apply?

Workers’ compensation insurance and liability insurance are two separate forms of coverage. Workers’ compensation covers you if you were driving a company vehicle within the scope of your employment, while liability insurance pays for third party damages. You can qualify for workers’ compensation if you were in an accident in a work vehicle even if the accident was due to your own negligence—as long as the accident was not related to any criminal activity. CA.Gov states that California is a “no-fault system, meaning that injured employees need not prove the injury was someone else’s fault in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits for an on-the-job injury.”

If you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, it can include payment for your out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident, your medical bills, and a portion of lost wages. It does not pay for pain and suffering. If you suffer a disability from an accident in a work vehicle, workers’ compensation will also award you a settlement. Workers’ compensation covers victims of work accidents regardless of who is at fault. You do not have to prove that your employer was negligent—just that a work-related activity caused your injury.

Consult With Experts

Thousands of employees sustain injuries on the job in California every year. If you have suffered physical or mental harm in a work-related accident, you can seek workers’ compensation benefits. You should have an experienced Accident lawyer on your side so that you can get quick and just settlement.

This article has been provided courtesy of Grey Law, a professional Los Angeles car accident attorney that has a reputation for recovering the most possible damages for clients in quick and efficient case settlements. Specializing in auto accidents and workplace injuries, including cases involving workers’ compensation and work vehicles.

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