If you get into a car accident at work, you may wonder who is responsible for the damages. What are your options if you suffered injuries as an employee? If a third party was injured in the crash, who is responsible for their damages? The question of responsibility in work-related vehicle accidents is more complex than you might think. Below, our Los Angeles car accident lawyers discuss accident fault in work-related vehicle accidents.

If you have been injured in a work-related car accident, do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Steers & Associates. Our Los Angeles car accident attorneys offer a free initial consultation to discuss your unique situation. We can help you understand your potential legal options for seeking compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses.

What Types of Vehicle Accidents Happen in the Workplace?

Some examples of work-related accidents involving vehicles include, but are not limited to:Badly damaged front bumper of a gray car

  • Single-vehicle accident. A single-vehicle accident only involves the employee driving either a personal vehicle or work vehicle. For example, an employee could lose vehicle control and crash into an inanimate object.
  • Accident between two company vehicles. In certain work environments, it is not uncommon for there to be multiple work vehicles operating. If two work vehicles collide, it can result in serious damages and injuries to both drivers and nearby workers.
  • Accident between a work vehicle and a third-party vehicle. This example involves a work vehicle, such as a delivery truck or company car, crashing with a third-party motorist.
  • Struck-by accident involving a work vehicle. Some workplaces involve both pedestrian workers and vehicle operators sharing the same space. A worker may be hit by a moving work vehicle.
  • Struck-by accident involving a third-party car. In certain work environments, such as road construction, workers risk being hit by moving vehicles.
  • Back-over accidents. Back-over accidents happen when a vehicle reverses and hits a worker behind the car. Large vehicles with significant blind spots may be at risk of backing over a pedestrian while working.

What Is Vicarious Liability in California?

Vicarious liability is a legal principle where one party is held responsible for the acts of another based on their relationship rather than any wrongdoing on the part of the first party. Under California’s vicarious liability laws, an employer can be liable for accidents caused by its employees if the accident occurred within the employee’s scope of employment.

A few situations in which an employer may be liable for damages caused by an employee’s car accident include:

  • Employee was performing their job during the accident
  • Employee was conducting approved business during the accident
  • Employer benefited from the employee’s actions when the accident occurred

Who Is Responsible for a Work-Related Vehicle Accident?

The person or entity responsible for the accident, whether by vicarious or direct liability, will be the one responsible for paying for damages. Damages could include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. However, determining fault in a work vehicle accident can be complex and depends on the unique circumstances surrounding the accident. In work-related car accidents, potential liable parties could include:

Employer Liability

Is an employer liable for damages caused by its employees? Generally, California employers may be vicariously liable for any damages caused by their employees if they were on the job or acting within their scope of employment when the accident occurred.

Therefore, the employer’s commercial auto insurance policy will typically cover third-party damages if an employee gets in an auto accident while performing their job duties or a work-related task. This is true whether the employee was driving a company car or their personal car.Police and car owner assessing the damage of two cars colliding on a street

In a situation like this, a third party may be another motorist or road user, such as a pedestrian or bicyclist. They may be able to file a claim against the employer’s insurance company to seek damages for medical expenses, lost wages, property damages, and pain and suffering.

Additionally, the employer could be liable for other reasons, such as negligent hiring or lack of employee training. In this case, the employer may be directly responsible for any damages incurred from the accident.

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Employee Liability

In some cases, the employee may be liable for third-party damages rather than the employer. Generally, if the accident occurs outside of the scope of employment, then the employee may be responsible. If so, the employee’s personal car insurance would apply to the accident.

Examples of when the employee may be liable include the following situations:

  • Employee was commuting to or from work
  • Employee was off duty
  • Employee was using their company car for personal reasons
  • Employee was using their company vehicle to commit a crime

Third-Party Liability

If another party that is not the employee is at fault for the accident, that party’s insurance would typically be responsible for covering damages incurred by the employee. Examples of third parties who may be liable include, but are not limited to:

  • Another driver: If another driver was negligent or violated traffic laws, leading to the accident, they could be liable for injuries and damages.
  • Vehicle or parts manufacturer: A manufacturer may be liable if a vehicle or parts defect contributed to or caused the accident.
  • Government entity: If poor road conditions, such as potholes, uneven pavement, or inadequate signage, contributed to or caused an accident, the government entity responsible for the roads may be liable.

What Types of Compensation Are Available for Work-Related Car Accidents?

The types of compensation available to you may depend on whether you file a personal injury claim or a workers’ compensation claim. Under California’s workers’ compensation system, employees injured in a work-related accident may be eligible for the following benefits:

  • Medical expenses
  • Temporary disability benefits
  • Permanent disability benefits
  • Supplemental job displacement benefits
  • Return-to-work supplement
  • Death benefits

Workers’ compensation does not cover any non-economic damages you may suffer due to the accident. Non-economic damages compensate accident victims for the physical pain and emotional trauma they may experience due to the accident. If someone else’s negligence resulted in your damages, you may be able to file a personal injury claim to seek compensation outside of the limits of workers’ compensation benefits.

An injury claim allows you to seek both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are monetary losses that may include the following types of damages:Chiropractor fixing a patient's back while lying down on a bed

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Property damages

Examples of non-economic damages you may be able to recover include:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Psychological trauma
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Disability Disfigurement

When Can an Employee Seek Workers’ Compensation?

Are you an employee who has suffered injuries in a car accident? You may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if you acted within the scope of your employment when the accident happened. Did the accident happen when you were performing your job duties? If so, you may be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits.

Regardless of accident fault, workers’ compensation benefits generally include the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Temporary disability benefits
  • Permanent disability benefits
  • Supplemental job displacement benefits
  • Return-to-work supplement
  • Death benefits

However, it is important to keep in mind that not every accident that happens during work hours or in a work vehicle will be covered by workers’ compensation. For example, you may not be eligible if you were commuting to or from work or running personal errands. Additionally, if you were driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol during a car accident, you may not be eligible.

We recommend consulting with an experienced Los Angeles car accident attorney about your situation. A car accident lawyer can help you understand your best options for seeking compensation. For example, if someone else’s negligence resulted in your injuries, they may be liable for your losses. In this case, filing a separate third-party accident claim may be in your best interest to pursue damages you could not get through workers’ compensation, like pain and suffering damages.

Is an Independent Contractor Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?

As with many other states, independent contractors are generally not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in California. Independent contractors are considered self-employed rather than employees of a company.

Are you an independent contractor who has suffered injuries in a car accident? We recommend talking to an experienced attorney about your potential legal options.

What Are my Rights As A Passenger in A Car Accident in California?

Discuss Your Work-Related Car Accident With Us Today

At the Law Offices of Steers & Associates, we have more than 40 years of combined experience helping auto accident victims obtain financial compensation for their injuries and damages. If you have suffered damages in a work-related car accident, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation.

During a free consultation, a personal injury lawyer from our firm can review your case and help you determine whether you may have a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim. While we do not handle workers’ compensation claims, we may be able to refer you to a trusted workers’ compensation attorney if we do not believe we can help you. Call us today at (800) 824-5416 or submit our online contact form.