If you get into an auto accident while driving a company vehicle, the case can be far more complicated than accidents that happen in a personal car. One of the first issues will be determining who is at fault and who is responsible to pay for the injuries and other losses that are sustained.
In most accidents that happen with a company vehicle, the employer’s liability coverage would kick in if the employee is responsible for an accident that happens while they are working. But if the accident occurred when they were not working (e.g., while driving to or from work), then the employer’s coverage would not apply. The same holds true if the employee was committing a crime (e.g., driving drunk on the job) or using the vehicle for personal or recreational activities outside of work.
If you are injured in a company vehicle while on the job, you should qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ comp covers medical bills and a percentage of lost earnings when you are out of work. Unfortunately, this program does not provide coverage for noneconomic losses that you may have suffered, such as pain-and-suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life.
However, if the driver of the other vehicle was at fault for the auto accident, then you can file a personal injury claim against their insurance company. This would allow you to recover both economic and noneconomic damages.
West Virginia Modified Comparative Negligence Laws
There are some instances when more than one driver is at fault for an auto accident. For example, let’s say you rear-ended the car in front of you because they were slow to move after the red light turned green. This might initially appear to be your fault, but later it is learned that the other driver was sending a text at the time when the light changed.
Because the other driver was texting while driving (a traffic violation), it is ultimately determined that they are more responsible for the accident than you were. In such cases, state comparative fault laws would apply.
West Virginia uses a modified form of comparative negligence for personal injury cases. In the Mountain State, if you are less than 50% at fault for the underlying accident or event, then you can still recover damages. However, your damage award would be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault you share.
So, in the previous example, if you sustained a total of $100,000 in damages and you are determined to be 20% at fault for the accident, your compensation would be reduced by $20,000 down to a total of $80,000.
When a Third Party is Responsible for a Car Accident in a Company Vehicle
Most auto accidents are the result of human error, but sometimes, the responsibility lies with a party that is not directly involved in the accident. This type of scenario happens commonly with commercial accidents in which an outside party plays a role. Examples include:
- Improperly Loaded Vehicles: When a company vehicle is used to ship products, the cargo/shipping company that loaded the vehicle could be at fault if the vehicle was unevenly loaded or loaded beyond its weight limits. This problem is most common with large tractor-trailers.
- Negligent Maintenance: If an accident happens because of mechanical failure, it could be the fault of the party responsible for maintaining the company vehicle.
- Faulty Products: Mechanical breakdown could also be caused by a dangerous or defective vehicle part, such as a brand-new tire that blows out after a minimal amount of use or a new steering system that malfunctions.
- Poorly Maintained Roadways: Some auto accidents are caused by poor road conditions, such as potholes or cracks in the road surface, damaged or hidden road signs, and missing or inadequate guardrails. In cases like these, the party in charge of maintaining the roadways could be at fault. If this is a government entity, there are special rules that need to be followed if you plan to pursue a claim against them.
Injured in an Auto Accident in West Virginia? Contact Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C. for Assistance
If you or a loved one suffered injury while driving a company vehicle, this could become a very complex case. For this reason, it makes sense to get an experienced personal injury attorney involved as early as possible, so your legal rights and interests are fully protected.
If your accident occurred in West Virginia, contact Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C. for skilled legal guidance. We will meet with you to thoroughly assess your case and explore every potential legal avenue toward recovering maximum compensation. To get started, call our office today at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979 or send us an online message to schedule your free consultation. We look forward to serving you!