Driving can sometimes be, in and of itself, hazardous. The hazards associated with a commute do not vanish when one is on-the-clock; this is especially true for those who work in industries that require regular travel.
If you should be unfortunate enough to be the victim, or even cause, of a car accident while on the clock tricky questions regarding liability arise, and it is important to understand when you might be found liable and when the employer might be found liable, not to mention whether or not a worker’s compensation claim is in your future.
Distinguishing Work-Related Accidents
The most important question to answer when one is injured while driving is whether or not the accident can be considered work related or not. One must actually be performing a work-related function in order for the accident to be counted as such, thus the morning commute and the evening drive home are out.
However, if you are making a delivery as in a delivery job (even if using a personal vehicle), or en route to a sales opportunity or important meeting then you are very clearly performing a work related function. This is of primary import in worker’s compensation claims, as worker’s compensation is not about fault – thus whether or not the accident was due to your negligence or not is irrelevant on the claim.
The question of fault however is most important for determining liability. The employer can be held liable as opposed to the driver in many cases – such as if a delivery driver was racing to meet a deadline and hits a pedestrian by mistake. However, if one is running a personal errand after hours in the company car then this would not be considered a work-related function, thus the liability falls on the driver of the vehicle.
“Third Party” Claims vs. Workman’s Compensation
It is important to note that workman’s compensation is a separate case from a third party claim. These cases arise when the other driver is clearly at fault for injuries suffered by the employee. The third-party claim is when the injured claimant sues the driver responsible for the accident in order to obtain compensation for medical bills.
It is in theory possible to pursue a third party case AND a worker’s compensation case, however do note that your employer could put a lien on the settlement that you reach with the third party in order to reimburse them for losses suffered as a result of the worker’s compensation claim.
Furthermore, these two cases are counted as separate, thus if you do wish to go after both try to use one attorney for both – or if that’s not possible then use two and ensure that both attorneys are in contact. The reason is that the two cases are interrelated, and the lien your employer may place against your settlement can be reduced in the interest of ensuring that you see your third-party case through rather than drop it and leaving them to pursue the matter on their own dime in order to get compensation.
What Should I Do If I Get in an Accident?
If you find yourself in a car accident while performing work-related functions, then treat the matter as you would any other workplace injury. Pursue medical assistance, be sure to get as many details as possible, and report the incident to your employer.
From there, you can pursue a worker’s compensation case as normal or, if the other driver was clearly at fault, have details you can use to pursue a third-party claim if you choose to go down that road. By taking these actions, you can ensure everybody is on the same page and that your pursuit of compensation has as few bumps as possible.
This article was written by Brennen Kliffmueller from Orlando, Florida. Brennen attended Florida State University and now works as a freelance writer. He highly recommends the legal services of Heil-Law.com.