If you have been involved in an accident with someone who was driving a company car, it is important to understand Vicarious Liability.
If you are in a car accident in Missouri, you should know that it is a comparative law state. That means that both parties can be found liable and responsible for an accident. When you are driving in a company car, however, liability is different. Depending on what you were doing while driving the company car and what your arrangement is with your employer, you may or may not be held liable for any portion of the damages and injuries that are found to be your fault.
What is Vicarious Liability?
Vicarious liability is a law that stipulates that if you are driving someone else’s car with their permission and are at fault in an accident, the owner of the car is liable for any damages or injuries. When driving a company car, however, there might be conditions where you personally would be liable, not your employer.
For vicarious liability to apply, you must be using the car in a work-related manner and under the authorization of your employer or the scope of your employment duties. For instance, if you were making deliveries for your boss and you got into an accident and were at fault, then your boss would generally be liable to pay for any damages and injuries that were caused. However, if you were delivering something for your employer and you stopped off afterward to run a personal errand, and then got into an accident, then you would likely be liable for damages and liability.
There are also instances where you might be liable even if you were performing work-related duties. If you were conducting yourself with wanton disregard or were engaging in criminal activities, then your employer will likely not be liable for your damages. For example, if you were taking clients out to entertain them in a company car and went out drinking, the choose to get behind the wheel and you are in an accident where you are charged with a DUI. In such an instance you would likely be found liable, not your employer.
So, although vicarious liability typically makes an employer liable when their employee is in an accident, there are many ways that the responsibility can be shifted to the employee. That is why it is imperative that if you are an employer who believes that your employee was not driving under the scope of their employment or that they were engaging in criminal activities, you speak with a St. Louis car accident attorney to protect your legal rights. In the same respect, if you are an employee who was engaging in work-related activities while driving and your employer is refusing to pay for your auto accident, you should likewise seek counsel.