Can you get workers’ comp benefits following a
car accident while on the clock?
Many jobs require some degree of driving. From delivery drivers and traveling salespeople to construction crews and folks simply running errands for their employer, any given day there is a fleet of vehicles on the road performing a work-related task. Considering how dangerous driving is and how common accidents are, it’s not surprising that many crashes and collisions involve someone who is “on the clock.”
If you were one such person who was involved in a car wreck while working, here’s the good news:
Most injured workers in North Carolina are eligible for workers’ compensation regardless of whether or not the accident was their fault—so long as it occurred in the course and scope of your employment.
Of course, there are a number of circumstances that complicate your case, and employers aren’t always willing to meet their end of the bargain by providing benefits to an injured worker. For example, insurers and employers may raise questions if you were driving a personal vehicle or running an errand, seeking to find out whether an employer is liable for the accident.
Knowing how car accident laws and workers’ compensation laws work together in North Carolina will help you know how to protect yourself after an injury and what to do following a work-related car accident.
What to do after a car accident while you are working
If you were involved in a crash while driving for work, one of your first thoughts might be a fear of what it means for your job and what your boss will say. However, in this critical time, it’s important to take the right steps to protect yourself and others.
First, you should call the police and help them file an accident report as this document will be necessary to obtain workers’ compensation benefits later on. It’s also important to notify authorities so that any injuries you or another person suffered are properly treated.
If you and the other party are not seriously injured, you’ll want to exchange your personal contact and insurance information with the other parties involved.
Once you’ve addressed any injuries and been permitted by the police to leave the accident scene, you should immediately report the accident to your employer. This is one of the most important steps in the workers’ compensation process. Failing to report your injuries in a timely manner could cause your claim to be rejected by your employer or their insurer.
Following your report to the employer, you may be asked to visit a company-approved doctor and submit to drug and alcohol testing. Make sure to follow each guideline to ensure that there is no reason to deny your claim.
If your claim is denied or your employer gives you a hard time, be sure to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your rights.
Are employers liable for an employee’s car accident?
Under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior (Latin for “let the master answer”), employers in North and South Carolina are liable for an employee’s actions while they are performing their job duties. In certain circumstances, this can even be true if an employee is not technically “on the clock” since many salaried jobs require employees to perform driving-related tasks.
Similarly, the legal concept of vicarious liability says that an employer can be vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their employees.
The doctrines of respondeat superior and vicarious liability come from the understanding that the employer is in a superior position that requires them to answer for the mistakes of anyone who works on their behalf.
Vicarious liability applies in most circumstances where a car accident is caused by an employee who is driving for work. The only exceptions are if the worker was intoxicated or performing a personal (not job-related) errand, in which case the claim would be handled like any other auto accident—between both drivers and their personal auto insurance companies.
How is vicarious liability determined?
Vicarious liability applies when the at-fault driver was performing a job-related duty during the car accident. For example, driving to the bank to make a deposit for your employer would fall under vicarious liability. However, an employer is not typically responsible for an off-premises accident that occurs while an employee is driving to and from work as part of their daily commute.
The issue of vicarious liability can get tricky if you have a car accident while traveling for work. Some positions require you to drive from one place to another in the course of a normal business day, such as an in-home sales job or working on multiple construction sites. If your employer (or their insurer) disputes that your accident was work-related, it’s time to contact an experienced work injury attorney near you for professional legal advice.
Does it matter what type of vehicle you are driving?
If you were driving a personal car for work, accident coverage from your employer should still apply just as it would if you were driving a company-owned vehicle. But keep in mind that this fact could impact how your own car insurance handles a claim.
For instance, your personal auto insurance company may refuse to cover claims for accidents that occurred while you were driving for business purposes. For this reason, it’s important to find out if your company provides workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees who drive their personal vehicles for work-related purposes.
What workers’ compensation benefits are provided for a car accident?
If you have a car accident in the course of your employment, then you are likely eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to help cover your injuries. This compensation should include financial reimbursement and payment for your crash-related medical bills, lost wages, vocational expenses and even travel expenses to and from treatment.
It’s worth noting that workers’ compensation only covers economic damages. Non-economic damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are usually not offered as part of a workers’ compensation settlement. In order to recover those damages, you would have to file a negligence claim against the at-fault driver.
Can an injured employee sue a third party?
Figuring out how car accident settlements work gets complicated when you are injured during the course of performing your job responsibilities. If you were not at fault for the accident, then it is possible that the other party’s insurance will cover the costs of repairing your vehicle and some of your medical treatments.
However, it is common for drivers to not have enough insurance coverage to manage all of the costs of a major car accident. In such situations, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you find out when workers’ compensation benefits can help cover your expenses.
Being involved in a car accident while working can leave you in a complicated situation since it is often hard to know who is responsible for covering your essential needs like medical care and vehicle repairs. Every case is different, but it is likely that you are eligible for workers’ compensation if you were driving for specific work purposes.
As you begin your recovery, knowing your rights when it comes to your workers’ compensation rights and auto accident law can help you recoup the short and long-term costs of a serious car accident.