How Does Work Comp Handle Car Accidents?

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Workers’ compensation refers to a type of insurance that provides employees with wage replacement and medical benefits when they become injured at work. When most people think of work comp, they think of injuries caused by machinery, or slips and falls on work sites. These days, many jobs involve driving or traveling from one site to another. This prompts the question, “How does work comp handle car accidents?” While workers’ comp rules tend to differ from state to state, if injuries are work-related, the employee is entitled to receive workers’ comp benefits. These benefits often include covering the employee’s medical expenses, and any wages lost due to missed work hours. These benefits are awarded, even if the accident was the fault of the employee.

Company Vehicles

The legal term ‘respondeat superior’ refers to the relationship between employees and employers when driving a company vehicle is involved in a car accident at work. Basically, this means that the employers are legally responsible for the actions of their employees while under their employment. The employer paying for any injuries or property damage that was incurred while driving a company vehicle falls under that umbrella. Times and activities considered as an employee governing themselves while under employment include but is not limited to: making deliveries, doing errands involving work, driving another employee, travel time, driving from job site to job site, and driving to and from job sites.

Times thought to be exceptions to the employer’s liability includes the employee’s travel time to and from work or driving that takes place during the employees’ breaks. Workers’ comp does not consider accidents that occur during these times work-related.

What Does Work Comp Do if the Employee Was at Fault?

Under the mandates of respondeat superior and the stipulation of acting “within the scope of employment,” workers’ comp most often applies to car accidents involving company vehicles. In the event that it is the negligence of the employee that caused property damage or injury, both the employer and employee can be liable by law. Injuries to a third party include other drivers, passengers in the vehicles of other drivers, or bystanders.

In most instances, the employer has liability insurance, under which the employees are protected against third-party actions. What that means is that the employee would not be liable for damages to the third party.

What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?

The main areas for which workers’ comp compensates when an employee is in a work-related car accident include medical bills or related expenses, lost wages due to missed work, and any additional costs related to pain or suffering.

Not only does the employer’s insurance protect their employees from having to pay damages to third parties, if the third party files a claim against the employee, the employer is obligated to pay all related legal fees.

In the event that the employee is injured in the car accident, they may also be entitled to compensation through workers’ comp. Workers’ compensation is what is known as a ‘no-fault system’. Under a no-fault system, even if the accident is the fault of the employee, they are still entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

The exception to this is when the employee gets involved in the committing of a crime, or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving the company vehicle at the time of the accident. In these instances, the employer has the right to refuse indemnification of the employee. As such, the employee can be denied workers’ compensation and all the related coverage.