While all car accidents are stressful and usually painful experiences for all parties involved, if you have been hit by someone driving a company car, the claim you file becomes more complex. Since you have likely sustained property damage or bodily injury, you are likely wondering who the responsible party is in the situation; the answer does vary depending on location and circumstance, but there are a few general guidelines that are consistent in the majority of states, which can help you to sort out the situation. Of course, it is always best to consult a personal injury attorney who can help you with the specifics.
If you are injured by someone driving a car owned by a company or by the government, the primary responsibility does lie in the hands of the person driving the car. However, there is a legal theory, respondeat superior, which may come into play if the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment. In other words, if the individual who struck you was driving the vehicle as part of his or her job duties, then the legal concept comes into play. Respondeat superior states that since the employee was performing the company’s work at the time of the accident, the company is responsible in addition to the driver for any negligence the employee engaged in. This is actually often helpful to those individuals seeking compensation for injuries in the event of a car accident, as it provides an additional entity that can pay a judgment in their favor if the trial ends that way.
If the employee is using the company car for personal business, the liability is somewhat more complex; in some situations and in some states, the company owner can still be found liable. A car owner is required to use due care when allowing someone to drive the vehicle they own; if the company failed to check the employee’s driving record or should have known that the employee had a condition that impacted their ability to operate the vehicle safety, then the company may be found liable for negligent entrustment of the vehicle. Another scenario that may lead to the company’s liability in the event of the car accident is such an event happening in a state that uses strict liability laws. Many states make the owner of a vehicle strictly liable for any injuries caused by the driver. This also means that the company’s liability will not depend on whether or not the employee was acting within the scope of his or her job duties at the time of the car accident.
In addition, vehicle owners can be found liable if a car accident is caused by the owner’s failure to properly maintain the vehicle in question. Another complexity may come up in the course of the claim depending on if the car is leased or owned; if the car is leased, and an additional company is responsible for maintaining the car, then that company may be found liable for a car accident that occurs as a result of improper maintenance. Overall, there may be many or few defendants in your personal injury claim if you have been the victim of a car accident with someone driving a company car. The best source of information for your particular circumstances is a local personal injury lawyer who has a specialty in car accident claims.