Most people associate workers’ compensation with an employee who is injured by a fall or while using machinery. However, there are many cases where an injury on the job involves operating a company vehicle.
What is Respondeat Superior?
The relationship between employers and employees who drive company vehicles falls under the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior,” meaning that employers are liable for the actions of their employees while “acting within the scope of their employment.” This also includes paying for property damage and injuries caused by the employee while operating a company car. When an accident occurs on an employee’s own time, such as traveling to and from work or during a lunch break, it is often not considered work-related.
The scope of employment entails the following actions:
- Making a delivery
- Running an errand for work
- Driving to and from off-site jobs
- Travel for which the worker is compensated by the employer
- Driving another employee for work-related purposes
- Using the company vehicle while performing other job duties
Am I Eligible to Pursue a Civil Claim?
If you suffered an injury while driving for work-related purposes and the accident was caused by a negligent third party, you may bring a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver due to negligence. In a workers’ compensation claim, you can receive payments only for your medical bills and lost earnings, not payments for any physical or mental pain and suffering. These damages can be recovered in a personal injury claim.
However, a “lien” – which is an equivalent of a right to reimbursement – can be involved if you receive workers’ comp benefits from your employer. This means that if you reach a settlement agreement in the personal injury claim, your employer can obtain reimbursement for the amount of workers’ comp benefits the employer paid you.