Car Accidents Involving a Corporate Vehicle – Who Is Responsible?

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In many vehicle accidents, the matter of fault is more or less clear—the person who caused the accident is typically considered to be responsible for paying damages. However, that may not be the case if the accident involves a company vehicle.

If you were involved in an accident with someone driving a corporate vehicle, their employer may be held responsible for paying damages.

Determining Fault in Vehicle Accidents

Of course, an employer only pays damages if their employee was actually at fault for the accident. If the accident didn’t result from their negligence or reckless behavior, then you don’t have a lawsuit—in fact, you may be the defendant against their vehicle accident claim.

On the other hand, if they acted in a way that could be considered reckless or negligent, their employer could be held responsible for any damages that result.

In some cases, both parties may be at fault. Illinois’ comparative fault laws dictate that if you are partially at fault for an accident, your damages may be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault you had. For instance, if you were eating while driving and were found 30% at fault for the resulting accident, your damages would be reduced by 30%.

An Employer’s Vicarious Liability

In Illinois, an employer may have vicarious liability for the actions of their employees through a legal doctrine called respondeat superior. This legal doctrine applies if the following conditions are met:

  1. The employee was engaged in conduct that they were employed to perform.
  2. The incident occurred while they were on the job.
  3. Their conduct in some way served their employer.

For example, if the employee was running an errand for their employer and got in a wreck through their own negligence, their employer could be held responsible for the resulting damages.

Cases Where the Employee Is Responsible

On the other hand, if the employee was using the vehicle for their own purposes or without their employer’s permission, they might have to pay damages themselves.

For instance, if they borrowed the vehicle to commute home without clearing it with their employer first, their employer wouldn’t likely be considered to benefit from their actions. As such, the employee would have to cover damages for the accident.

The matter of whether the driver is liable may not always be clear, especially in cases involving independent contractors. For example, many 18-wheeler operators are independent contractors who may not necessarily be driving for an employer at the time of an accident. In those cases, it comes down to whether the driver was benefitting an employer rather than operating a company vehicle.

Recovering Damages in a Corporate Vehicle Accident

When it comes to accidents involving corporate vehicles, it’s important to determine who is actually responsible for paying damages. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, it may be the employer since they own the vehicle and are benefitted by its use. Often, it’s easier to recover damages from the driver’s employer than the individual since individuals often have limited resources and insurance coverage.

If you have been involved in an accident with a corporate vehicle, you need an attorney to evaluate your case and help you recover damages. Hart David Carson LLP can assist you throughout every stage of the process, so contact us today for a consultation.

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