Nicolet Law Office, S.C.

What you should know about liability and company vehicles

If your car is hit by another vehicle due to the driver's negligence, it is usually the other driver that is liable for damages. When the vehicle that hit you is a company vehicle, however, that may not always be true. In some cases, it may actually be the employer's responsibility to pay for the damages.

Under the doctrine of "respondeat superior," an employer is considered vicariously liable for the act of an employee when the act is committed during the course of the employment. This means that if the driver was "on the clock" during the time of the accident, the employer is generally liable.

If the employee was driving the car, but not performing job-related duties while driving the vehicle, however, the court then usually asks the question of whether the employee was on what is known as a "detour" or a "frolic." A detour is considered to have occurred when there is a small deviation in the employee's actions, but that action still is somewhat job-related. As an example, the employee is on his way to deliver materials to a client, but after taking a small detour to put gas in the vehicle, becomes involved in an accident. The employer is still considered liable.

If the employee's actions are not within the scope of his or her employment, however, the employer is not considered liable for the employee's actions. For example --- the employee uses the company vehicle after he or she is finished with work to run personal errands and then hits your car with the company vehicle. The employer would not be considered as liable since the employee's actions would be considered a frolic.

Individuals who have been involved in a car accident due to a negligent driver may find it beneficial to learn more about their legal rights and how they pertain to their case.

Source: FindLaw, "Accident in a Company Car: Who's Liable?," Betty Wang, JD, May. 04, 2015

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