Work-related Car Accidents: Who Is Responsible?

Posted on by Defensive Driving Team | in Defensive Driving Tips

If your employee has an accident while driving his or her own car to work, are you as the employer responsible? What about an employee who uses a personal car to take a prospective client to dinner and hits a pedestrian? What if a different employee has an accident while using a company car on personal business?

Whether you are responsible for a corporate fleet or simply have one or two employees who use their cars to run work-related errands, these are questions you should be able to answer. However, the answers can be a bit more complicated than you might think.

In general, employers have vicarious responsibility for the actions of their employees. Under the principle “respondeat superior”, an employer is legally responsible for any actions undertaken employees during the course of employment. Determining what exactly the “course of employment” is can be a bit tricky.

Basically, if an action is undertaken to accommodate the needs of an employer and/or benefits the employer, then it is considered to be in the “course of employment.” For example, say an employer asks his employee to fetch work-related materials on his or her way home. The employer would then be liable for any accidents or damage incurred by the employee while driving home from work. This holds true whether or not the employee is driving a company car or a personal car and even if the driver only uses the vehicle for work-related purposes sporadically.

For example, in a recent case in California, Lobo v. Tamco (2010), the court ruled that an employer was responsible for the actions of an employee while travelling to and from work, as the employer required that the employee bring his car to work in order to use it for company errands. While the employee had only been required to use his car for work-related errands on 12 occasions during 16 years of employment, the employer was nonetheless held responsible.
Courts do often distinguish between “detours” and “frolics.” If an employee goes on a detour while carrying out his or her duties, then the employer will still be responsible. For example, if an employee stops for food while on the way to a sales call and an accident occurs at the drive-through, the employer will likely be held responsible. However, should an employee use a personal OR company vehicle for reasons of personal pleasure, this is defined as a “frolic”, and the employer is not held responsible. For example, if an employee has an accident with a company car while taking his family out to dinner, the employer won’t be held responsible. However, this may not necessarily be true. In some states, owner liability laws will ensure that the employer is responsible for any accidents that involve company cars, even if they occur while personal tasks are being carried out.

Employers can also be held responsible for negligent hiring. Employers need to conduct the necessary background checks to ensure that employees are suitable for the tasks that will be required of them. For example, an employer who hired a convicted child molester to drive an ice cream truck would be guilty of negligent hiring. This holds true for positions which require driving. If you are hiring an employee who will be required to carry out ANY kind of work-related driving, you, as an employer, will be responsible for checking that the prospective employee has a clear driving record, any necessary licensing, and the knowledge and skills necessary to drive safely. Employers can also be found guilty of negligent retention. If a driver accumulates repeated fines and offenses, his or her employer must take steps to prevent further problems, including suspension, firing, or the completion of a defensive driving course.
One area of employer liability that has recently come under intense scrutiny is the rise in distracted driving accidents. Employers can be held liable for cell-phone related accidents, particularly if the employer has created a work environment in which employees are pressured to be in constant communication, even while driving. If an employer issues cellphones to employees, the employer can also be held liable for phone related accidents.

As an employer, you can take several steps to minimize your liability for cell-phone related accidents, including:

  • Creating a clear written policy on cell phone usage and safe driving that is signed by all employees. For tips on how to do this, see my previous entry on how to create a safe driving policy.
  • Provide printed information on state laws regarding driving and cell-phone usage.
  • Have all employees sign an indemnity statement that absolves the employer of responsibility should they violate the company’s cell-phone usage policy.

Communication of expectations and regular safe driving education can also help to reduce the number of accidents and promote safe driving habits within the work place. Enrolling your workforce in a defensive driving course is a great way to educate your employees and prevent accidents. Find out more at www.businessdefensivedriving.com.

|

Customer Reviews

Defensivedriving.com has a ShopperApproved rating of 4.7 based on 95789 ratings and reviews.

Amanda United States
It's been easy and simple.
Omar TX, United States
Awesome, quick and easy experience.
Maximiliano United States
Simple to use. Clean UI
Jasmine TX, United States
It was a very easy process to start and an informative class
Marcus TX, United States
The overall experience is awesome and I would definitely recommend this to someone else if they need a defensive driving course to take. Plus, the price is good.
Skyler TX, United States
Easy to follow directions and the help line was very informative!
Carrie United States
Easy to navigate website.
Thomas United States
Simple and clear
John TX, United States
All very straight forward and essy.
Christian
Quick, Fast, & Easy
Cesar
Easy and simple to use.
Roope
Quick, fast and easy!
Diana United States
The course was very helpful and easy to follow. I highly recommended for anyone
Adrian United States
Easy and fast
Allison United States
Easy, simple course!
Brynwyn
Quick and easy!
Kimberly
Straight to the point, easy to navigate site.
Norma United States
The course will be quick and convenient to take from home.
Christina TX, United States
I would recommend you all to everyone over all the other course sites. There are no hidden fees, easy to navigate and same day certificate and driving record. Fantastic!!! Thank you!!
Barbara
Fast and easy
Travis TX, United States
It was quick and easy
James TX, United States
Very simple and easy to follow.
Thomas
So easy to use!
Alexandra
Easy to sign up!
Raylan
Fast & Easy
Jason
Quick and easy.
See all reviews on shopperApproved.com
Why DefensiveDriving.com
  • 20 Years in Business
  • Over 2 Million Customers Served
  • Highest Possible Better Business Bureau Rating
  • Award Winning Course