As if getting into a car accident doesn’t put enough of a detour in your plans for the day, it’s even more stressful to deal with when you’re behind the wheel of a company vehicle!
All it takes is one wrong move to put you in serious trouble – and you may not even be the one who does something wrong. There’s no telling how other drivers on the road are going to behave, and if you do find yourself crashing the company car, the only thing you can do is make the best of it.
Don’t start freaking out about losing your job or the look your boss is going to give you. Your first priority when you get in a car accident in a company vehicle should be your safety and that of those involved.
Then, you can begin to focus on the more practical details.
Here’s an in-depth guide of everything you need to do is you ever find yourself in this situation.
1. Determine Who’s at Fault
Just like with any car accident, the first thing to do to resolve your company car issue is determine who’s at fault. Typically, it’s whichever person that gets the driving ticket that is responsible for the cause of the accident and paying for the compensation, too.
But, there are certain situations when both of the drivers involved (or multiple drivers) receive a ticket. This makes it a little harder to determine fault when talking to auto insurance companies and your employer.
If you find yourself in a bit of a he-said-she-said situation, the best thing you can do is ask for the police report of the accident. This goes way beyond the tickets everyone received.
A police accident report clearly states how the accident happened and everyone who was affected. It communicates both drivers’ side of the story as well as that of any witnesses who saw the collision. It’s also what insurance companies and the owners of company vehicles will go by when determining fault for compensation purposes, and any disciplinary action your employer may decide to take.
2. Understand Who Has to Pay for Vehicle Damages and Personal Injuries
Once the dust of the accident is settled and the police report is written up, it’s time to decide who has to pay for damages. If it’s clear that the other party is at fault, you’re in luck. If you’re partially at fault or the whole blame is on you, things get a little trickier.
The following is a closer look at the various scenarios that may arise as far as accident compensation goes.
The Insurance of the Other Driver
When the other driver is at fault, their car insurance covers the damages of the accident. Damages include any harm incurred by the company vehicle and to your person, and any other people in the vehicle with you.
But, all of these damages have to be claimed and proven before you can get compensation. You and your employer will have to work together to get all the necessary documents in order. It’s your responsibility to provide your medical records and bills following the accident, and it’s your employer’s job to take care of paperwork regarding the company vehicle.
Once everything is submitted, there’s a bit of a waiting game to endure as you wait for the other driver’s insurance settlement to kick in.
Your Company’s Auto Insurance
If you are at fault, your company’s auto insurance pays for the damages to the vehicle you were driving, the other vehicle(s) involved, and the medical needs of the other driver.
The bad news is your medical compensation is handled separately. The good news, though, is that you don’t have to take care of any auto insurance claims. Since the car isn’t in your name, it’s not your responsibility!
Your Worker’s Compensation Rights
You may be eligible for worker’s compensation even if you were at fault for the accident. You may also be entitled to compensation from your employer on top of the expenses that the other driver’s insurance covers if they were at fault.
But, there are a few critical additional factors to consider.
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to claiming worker’s compensation is that you need to have been operating within the scope of your duties during the time of the accident.
Otherwise, you’re not entitled to worker’s compensation and you may even end up in legal trouble with your (likely former) employer. Operating outside the scope of your duties applies if you were running a personal errand or driving the company car without permission, among other things.
Once you’ve determined that you were operating in the scope of your duties, you have to start the claims process to get compensation. This is separate from other claims you may have to file. It’s a detailed process that this website can help you with.
3. Consider Taking Legal Action
There’s a difference between claiming your worker’s compensation rights and going to court to state your case. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that your employer is willing to work with you after the car accident and make the compensation process go smoothly. Or, you may discover that it’s a complete nightmare.
If you find yourself in a situation like the latter, you should consider taking legal action. There’s no guarantee that the court ruling will go your way, but it’s much better to try and get the compensation you deserve than to settle for less.
Keep in mind that this is a long process, though. You’re still responsible for paying your medical bills on time and taking care of all your personal finances while your case gets sorted out.
This may be a challenge to do if you’ve had to take time off work to recover from your accident or if you’re faced with a big stack of medical bills to pay. Still, you can’t put any worker’s compensation money towards these things until your case is won, if you do win.
4. Plan Your Next Steps
Taking legal action is just one of the options available to you as you start to recover from your car accident. Whether you decide to take this route or not, you have to plan your next steps carefully in order to ensure you’re in the best physical and mental health and that you have some sort of financial stability, too.
Navigating Your Legal Case
The best part about going to court over worker’s compensation rights is that you don’t have to do it alone! Make sure you take the time to find a good lawyer and talk about all the details of your case together.
Communicate every detail you can about the car accident you were involved in with the company vehicle and the steps your employer took after the event occurred. Even the things that seem minor to you can provide a worker’s compensation lawyer with the extra bit of information they need to make your case stronger.
Taking Time Off
If you suffered a bad injury and need to take time off work, you may only get worker’s compensation up to a certain period of time. This isn’t necessarily a viable reason to go to court, but it does mean you have a bit of thinking to do about your future.
Think about how you’re going to keep up with rent and other bills in the weeks that you won’t receive any payment from your employer. Consider what your injury means as far as changes to your daily routine, and don’t be afraid for asking help from friends and family during your healing process.
Leaving Your Job vs. Going Back to Work
As crazy as it may sound, getting in a car accident in a company vehicle might be the best thing that ever happens to your professional life. This may be the sign you need to leave your job and do something else. Or, it might give you an entirely newfound appreciation for the work you do and the company you do it with.
Keep this in mind as you’re navigating the ups and downs that occur in the aftermath of a work-related car accident.
Recovering After a Car Accident in a Company Vehicle
At the end of the day, there’s a lot more to a car accident than just the collision, especially when a company vehicle is involved. Between making sure that you’re physically okay in the heat of the moment, getting all your paperwork in order, and fully recovering post-accident, you have a lot on your plate.
But, you don’t have to handle it all alone.
For more insights on how to recover your mind, body, and personal finances after a car accident in a company vehicle or in your own car, click here.