What Happens if I’m in a Car Accident at Work?

A man having a car accident during working hours Whether you’re travelling to a client meeting or between job sites, any time you get behind the wheel, you run the risk of getting into a car accident. In most cases, the driver who is at fault for causing the accident is liable for any damages caused by the collision. However, determining liability becomes a bit more complicated when a car accident happens on company time.

The company will typically have commercial auto insurance to cover work-related accidents that occur while an employee is acting within the scope of their employment. There are certain instances where the employee is held liable for a car accident during work hours.

Who pays in a company car accident will depend on how the employee was using the car.

When Is My Employer Liable for Damage to My Car?

The employer can be held liable for a car accident if the actions of the employee fall under the doctrine of vicarious liability. Under vicarious liability, you may be protected for a car accident involving a personal vehicle or a company-owned vehicle. The primary factor in determining vicarious liability is if the employee acted within the scope of employment when the car accident occurred.

The scope of employment is defined as the range of activities an employee is reasonably expected to do as part of the job. Suppose you are travelling to an appointment with a client, running errands for work, or heading to a training meeting. These actions would fall under the scope of employment for vicarious liability, and your employer can be held liable for damages.

Under certain circumstances, vicarious liability can apply if:

  • The employee’s actions were carried out within the scope of employment
  • The accident occurred while the employee was on the job
  • The employee was driving as part of a work-related task
  • The employer would have benefited from the activity carried out by the employee at the time of the accident

If you are driving a company-owned vehicle and are determined to be at-fault for the car accident, the damages are typically covered by your employer’s commercial auto insurance policy.

If you cause a collision while driving your personal vehicle, the employer’s insurance policy will only kick in if your private auto insurance wasn’t enough to cover the damages. However, most personal insurance policies have a non-commercial clause, meaning they will not provide coverage for an accident that happens while the driver is using their vehicle for business purposes.

This is why determining vicarious liability is so essential. If you have been involved in a car accident at work and are not sure if vicarious liability applies, speak with a car accident lawyer to ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to.

When Is My Employer NOT Liable?

The primary reason why your employer would not be liable is if you were acting outside the scope of employment when the car accident occurred. Suppose that your travel is work related, but during the trip you stop to get a coffee. If the car accident happens while you are getting coffee, even in a company-owned vehicle, this would be considered a personal errand that falls outside your employment duties and vicarious liability may not apply.

Criminal Offenses

You might be liable for damages if the car accident happened while you were engaging in negligent or illegal activity. For instance, if you are driving recklessly or operating a vehicle under the influence, vicarious liability will not apply, and your employer’s insurance will not provide coverage for the accident.

Commuting

Your commute to and from work is typically not considered a part of your job. Employers are generally not considered liable for car accidents caused during a work commute, even if the commute is in a company vehicle. Some exceptions may apply for business trips or jobs that require you to be on-call, or you spend a significant amount of time travelling as part of your employment, such as personal care workers or salespeople.

Sometimes, you might be asked to sign a company car contract that could include a clause that releases the employer from liability for a car accident, regardless of whether you were using the vehicle within the scope of employment. Most often, the liability clause contains a set of guidelines associated with the use of the company car, which could still be used to negate company liability. It is very important that you read the contract carefully and keep a copy for your records.

Can I Get Workers’ Comp After an On-the-Job Car Accident?

If you are injured in a car accident during work hours while acting within the scope of your employment, you can file for workers’ compensation. The Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) of Nova Scotia is responsible for work-related injuries that arise out of, and occur during, the course of employment.

To determine if you are covered while travelling, WCB will consider the following factors:

  • The purpose of the travel
  • If travel is part of the job requirement
  • If the travel is under the direction and control of the employer
  • If the travel is consistent with the employment obligations

If you are injured in a work-related car accident, workers’ compensation laws may require your employer to pay for the costs associated with your injuries, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Worker’s compensation does not often cover pain and suffering. However, you can receive coverage for medical expenses, temporary or long-term disability, supplemental job displacement, and death benefits for spouses, children and dependents.

Accidents Caused By Another Driver

If another driver’s negligence caused the car accident, they would be liable for damages paid to you and your employer. If you sustained injuries during a work-related car accident, the other driver’s car insurance policy might not cover the full cost of your damages. If that’s the case, you may gain more from the workers’ compensation system than you will recover from a third-party claim against the other driver.

Alternatively, workers’ compensation has limits on what it covers. If another driver was at fault for the accident, choosing to pursue a third-party claim may help you recover compensation for additional losses. When you have an active WCB claim, you cannot make an additional private claim against a negligent driver. This is an important decision to make with many factors and strict timelines to consider.

What to Do When in a Car Accident on Work Time

No matter if the car accident occurs during or outside of work hours, the first thing to do is check yourself and any passengers for injuries. If you can, try not to move the vehicles unless they are causing major traffic problems.

The next steps you take will help ensure you receive proper medical treatment and collect the necessary documents to support your claim.

Call 911: The responding officer will fill out an accident report and document the scene. Be sure to request a copy of this report in addition to recording the officer’s name, badge number, and contact information.

Seek Medical Attention: Even if you do not have any visible injuries, you should get examined by a medical professional at the scene. Get copies of all medical documents for your records.

Exchange Information: Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. You may also want to take down the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses who saw what happened.

Document the Accident: Take as many photos and videos of the scene as you can. Be sure to capture vehicle damage, license plates, injuries, and the location of the accident.

If the accident happened while you were performing a work-related task, the next step is to immediately report your injury to your employer. If you are pursuing a claim with workers’ compensation, you will need to work with your employer to fill out a WCB Injury Report Form. You will also need to submit a form from your healthcare provider before the claims process can begin.

You will either open a claim through your employer’s insurance or your personal auto insurance provider. If the other driver is responsible for causing the collision, you will need to decide if you should pursue compensation by submitting a third-party claim with their insurer or through the WCB system.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today

Work-related car accidents can get complicated very quickly. You may be dealing with two insurance companies, both of which are trying to reduce your reimbursement as much as possible. If you have questions about your claim or are struggling to receive payment, the best option is to seek advice from a qualified car accident lawyer.

Our team at Valent Legal offers a free consultation to review your case and advise you on your legal rights and options to receive the compensation you deserve.