Accidents During the Daily Commute: Employer Responsibility?
Few people enjoy a long commute to and from work every day, especially when the most common time for auto accidents to occur is when a driver is going to and from work. Every day there are more people on the road in the early morning and late afternoon who are just trying to get to work and back home, which makes these times the most congested hours on the road. More cars on the road equals more car crashes. In California, there are special laws that govern who is responsible for a car crash during a worker’s daily commute. An employer in California can only be found liable for a car accident on an employee’s commute to and from their place of work if the employee’s vehicle was required for work on the day the accident occurred. This was confirmed by a recent ruling in California’s Second District Court of Appeals, which reversed a $14 million judgement against an employer whose employee got into a car accident on the way to work but their car was not required for work that day. The employer also did not gain any benefits from the employee’s vehicle being at work that day, so the employer was found not liable for the car accident. This ruling is important for both employers and employees, whether public or private.
In general, when an employee commits a tort during their work commute, their employer is not held liable. An exception to this does exist when the employee’s vehicle is specifically required at work, for work purposes only, and the employer benefits from that vehicle being used that day. Because car accidents can cause so much damage to physical property and can seriously injure drivers and pedestrians, being in a car accident while commuting to or from work can be devastating. When car accidents happen while commuting and injuries result, the legal team at Curtis Legal Group works hard to obtain fair compensation for the injured victims. One way we do that is to make sure we have located all the insurance policies that may provide coverage for the negligent party that caused the accident. Many drivers in California only have the absolute minimum auto insurance coverage, if they have a policy at all. The minimum coverage required by California law is $15,000 for any one person injured in an accident and $30,000 for all persons injured, no matter how many. These limits rarely cover the full cost of a car accident, especially when the cost of an emergency room visit alone is generally more than that amount. This means we must look for other forms of coverage to obtain fair compensation to cover all costs associated with the auto accident.
Insurance Issues in Car Accidents While Commuting
One source of additional coverage is the negligent driver’s employer. If the at-fault driver was on an errand for their employer at the time of the accident, they may be found to be operating the vehicle while in the “course and scope” of their employment. If so, the employer’s insurance coverage will apply as well as the employee’s policy. An employee of a company still has a duty of care to abide by when driving a vehicle for their employer. What if the employee was just on their way to work or on their way home? Will the employer’s insurance apply? The answer is generally no, because during their commute, the employee is not providing any service for the employer; however, there are exceptions and determining if any of those exceptions apply requires the legal insight of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
One exception that may apply is based on whether the employer required the employee’s vehicle to be available to use for the employer’s purposes during the workday. For example, if the employer required the employee to have his or her car on the job so that the employee could run errands for the employer from time to time, the employer’s insurance policy could apply to an accident caused by the employee during their commute. Some courts have narrowed this exception by saying that the employee’s car had to actually be used for job duties on the day of the accident, not just generally available.
Another exception that could apply would be if the employee was required to perform work away from the usual workplace and then was driving home after doing so. For example, if the employer required an employee to attend an off-site meeting and the employee then caused a car accident while going home from the meeting, the employer’s insurance would likely come into play. Another situation where an employee could be said to be “on the job” at the time of the accident, triggering the employer’s insurance coverage, would be where the employee was on the way to work but actively engaged in a work-related phone call at the time they caused the accident. In that situation, it could be said that the employee was actually “at work” when the crash happened. With the increase in remote working and taking conference calls outside of the office, this situation may increase in frequency.
Proving an employer is legally responsible for all or part of an employee’s actions when they cause a car accident that injures another increases the value of the victim’s claims significantly. The examples above are just a few ways our diligent legal work can result in big benefits to our clients and their families.
California Car Accident Attorneys
When our clients suffer serious injuries as the result of a California car accident, it is up to us to help them get all the compensation they need and deserve. The stress of a legal battle should not be on your shoulders while you recover from your injuries. If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by someone else’s negligence, the trial attorneys at Curtis Legal Group can help. Give us a call; we’ll be happy to talk with you at 1-800-LAW-3080.