If you are one of the lucky people whose employer provides you with a company car to drive, you know how beneficial this perk can be. But what happens if you wreck that car? Can you file a workers’ compensation claim for any injuries you receive? Must your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company pay that claim? And who pays for the damage to the car and to any other vehicles you hit or people you injured in the crash?
Who pays for what when you crash the company car completely depends on whether you were acting within the scope of your employment at the time of the accident. In other words, were you using the car to help you perform your job duties?
Under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior (Latin for “let the master answer”), your employer must bear responsibility for any actions that you, as an employee, take during the course of your employment. Put another way, your employer bears responsibility for whatever you do, even if you do it negligently, as long as you do it while performing your job.
Consequently, assuming that you were on a job-related task at the time that you wrecked the company car, the responsibility for that accident shifts to your employer. (S)he or the company’s workers’ compensation insurance company must pay you for whatever injuries you suffer as a result of the accident. In addition, (s)he also must pay for any damage you caused to other people or property.
You will only be personally liable for your injuries and damages under one of the following circumstances:
- You drove the car for your own pleasure, not your employer’s purposes, during business hours.
- You drove the car for your own purposes after business hours.
- You drove the car as part of committing a crime.
The most important thing to remember whenever you drive your employer’s car is that you must do so only in the performance of your job.