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When are Employers Liable in Automobile Accidents?

If you were involved in an automobile accident, you may have to take time off of work to recover. During this time, your expenses may stack up, including medical bills and living costs. If you were hit by an employee driving a vehicle owned by their employer or while driving on company property or business, the employer may be liable to pay you damages in compensation.

Personal Injury Claims

To win a personal injury claim, you need to prove the other driver was negligent, which means they did not act as they should have. This could mean showing they broke a traffic law, were driving while drunk, or were participating in other illegal or irresponsible actions. If you aren’t able to agree on a settlement and the case goes to trial, you could be entitled to any of the following damages:

  • Medical compensation: Any medical expense directly related to the accident.
  • Lost wages: Money you would have earned had you been at work.
  • Pain and suffering: Calculated based on the length of your treatment and recovery, but varies by state.
  • Emotional distress: Traumas directly related to the accident and usually have to be diagnosed by a psychologist.
  • Wrongful death: Can be claimed by a partner or child in every state, but other relatives vary by state.
  • Punitive damages: Damages paid as punishment. Caps vary by state.

Employer Liability

In order for an employer to be liable, the employee has to be considered on the job when the accident occurs. An employee is on the job only when they are performing work-related activities. Generally, driving to or from work doesn’t count, even when they’re driving a company vehicle. There are two mains ways an employer can be considered liable:

  • Employer Negligence: Employers need to provide sufficient care to check that their employees are safe drivers by checking their previous driving records. They also need have reasonable safety policies that in effect to make sure their employees are complying with traffic laws and cargo laws in the case of truck drivers. It’s considered negligent supervision if employers are not.
  • Vicarious Liability: If an employee is running both company and personal errands whether or not they are considered on-the-job usually depends which errand the employee was doing at the time of the accident. There are also restrictions that protect the employer if the employee intentionally hits another person.

How to File a Claim

If you’re not sure whether or not the employee was on the job, you should send notice of the accident and a demand letter to both the employee’s personal insurance company and the employer’s. If there is clear fault, the insurance companies will generally sort it out, but if the employee is uninsured or underinsured and the employer’s insurance is claiming the employee wasn’t on the job, you may need to hire a lawyer.

In a demand letter, you need a detailed summary of what happened and the injuries you sustained, as well as the specific amount of money you want and evidence of how you came to that total. You’ll also want to show evidence that the accident was the other driver' fault, such as police reports, witness statements, or photos. Include a time limit for the insurance company to contact you with an answer and make it clear you will file a claim if they don’t compensate you.

If your demand letter is denied, ignored, or you and the insurance company are unable to settle, you will have to file a claim in a civil court in your state. Many cases are settled with the help of a judge and laywers.