All car accidents – even those that don’t cause injuries or property damage – cause stress. But car accidents that involve vehicles owned by corporations (also known as company cars or company vehicles) present special issues. This post will explain what you can do if you’ve been hit by a company vehicle.
What Qualifies as a Company Car?
To determine if you’ve been hit by a company vehicle, you must know the different types of vehicles that fit in this category.
Broadly speaking, a company vehicle is any vehicle that is used for business purposes. This purpose can be transporting products or passengers. Examples of company vehicles include:
- Garbage trucks
- Semi-Trucks (also known as tractor-trailers or big rigs)
- Delivery trucks
- Tow trucks
- Commercial Trucks
- Construction vehicles
Usually, company vehicles will be decorated with an insignia or logo from the company that owns them. This is a good clue that someone is driving the company car. However, under Alabama law, if an employee uses their personal car for company business with the employer’s knowledge and consent, it may also qualify as a company vehicle.
(Note: Trucking accidents – which we’ve already discussed in this blog – also fall under the category of company vehicle accidents.)
Company Car Accidents: By the Numbers
Accidents involving company cars are a common occurrence. Every year, roughly 20 percent of commercial vehicles are involved in crashes. According to government data, transportation incidents are the leading fatal event for American workers. In 2018, these accidents accounted for 40 percent of all work-related deaths. This number represented an increase over the prior year.
Some of the causes of accidents involving company vehicles are the same as the reasons for accidents in personal vehicles. Distracted driving, drunk driving, speeding, and the like cause motorists in both personal and commercial vehicles to drive poorly. However, commercial vehicles travel many more miles than private cars. The additional miles traveled increase the risk of accidents.
If You’ve Been Hit by a Company Car, Can You Recover?
Alabama law allows those who are hit by a company car or truck to recover. However, how the car is being used is the determinative factor. Another consideration is who is at fault.
If the company vehicle was not being used for company purposes at the time and you were not at fault, the incident will be treated like any other accident. In other words, you would contact your insurance company and begin the insurance claims process against the other driver. This route normally ends with an accident settlement. (However, you must be extremely careful about talking to insurance companies after an accident because they can use your words against you.) A personal injury lawyer may be able to help you with this process.
If you were hit by a company vehicle that was “on the job” and you were not at fault, you would also use the normal personal injury process. However, Alabama law only requires most drivers – whether personal or commercial – to carry $25,000 of insurance coverage. This amount may not be enough to cover your damages.
Luckily, like all other states, Alabama personal injury law recognizes a rule called “vicarious liability.” Vicarious liability holds employers liable for the actions of their employees. The rule applies when there is an employer-employee relationship and the accident occurred while the employee was acting within the scope of their job duties.
The vicarious liability rule can help you in two ways. First, while Alabama businesses are only required to carry $25,000 in insurance, businesses, unlike individuals, are more likely to have assets that can be pursued in a personal injury lawsuit. Second, businesses that own vehicles registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation – usually large trucks and vans – must carry at least $750,000 in insurance. Either way, the vicarious liability rule increases your chances of receiving adequate compensation for your injuries.
Note that both of these options require that you not be at fault. Alabama follows a strict rule called contributory negligence. This rule states that people who cause accidents cannot recover damages – even if they were only one percent responsible for causing the accident. However, an experienced personal injury attorney or accident lawyer may be able to help you overcome this doctrine.
If You’re Hit While Driving a Company Car, Can You Recover?
If you are hit while driving a company vehicle, you have several options.
In general, a person who is driving a company car on company business and is not at fault has two paths to recovery. The first path is the normal personal injury route. However, in Alabama, those who are injured on the job can also use the workers’ compensation system. This system compensates people for workplace injuries. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you with both the personal injury process and the workers’ compensation claim.
If you were hit in a company car while on personal business and were not at fault, you will need to use the normal personal injury process. Because you were not engaged in work activities, you will not be able to file for workers’ compensation.
Again, as stated above, due to Alabama’s contributory negligence rules, it will be important to prove that you were not the cause of the accident. An accident lawyer can help you with that issue.
Have You Been Hit by a Company Car?
If you’ve been hit by a company car, been hit while driving a company car, or been in any other type of vehicle accident, you have many legal options. If you want to discuss these options with an experienced car accident attorney, contact Collins Law, LLC. Our personal injury lawyers are committed to proving you with solid legal advice while keeping you informed about the important developments in your case. To learn more about how we can help you or to talk to one of our injury lawyers, call (205) 881-0403 or click here to schedule your free consultation.