On-the-job car accidents are more common than you might think, mainly if the nature of your job entails driving. Employees involved in car and truck accidents that happen in the course of work can be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The facts and circumstances surrounding the car accident will dictate whether you qualify for workers’ compensation or may have other means of recovering compensation. 

A car accident while working, whether in a company vehicle or in your vehicle, can give rise to many issues, multiple concerns, and several claims. Work-related car accidents can be complex and involve individuals and entities with varying degrees of fault. These cases can get complicated quickly and require an experienced attorney knowledgeable in many aspects of the law. If you are wondering how to file a workers’ compensation claim or a civil lawsuit, contact our team at Ferrante & Koenig. 

Who Is Responsible for an Accident on the Job?

Respondeat superior is a legal term that means an employer or principal is liable for the wrong of an employee or agent if it was committed within the scope of employment. Simply, this means your employer may be liable to you and third parties due to a car crash while you are working.

In many situations, an on-the-job car accident would likely qualify for workers’ compensation. Workers’ comp typically applies in your car or a company vehicle as long as you carry out work duties. 

Some common examples of on-the-job car accidents covered by workers comp’ include:

  • Running an errand for the company or your boss,
  • Commuting to an off-site job,
  • Transporting co-workers for work purposes,
  • Making a delivery for your employer, and
  • Travel in which your employer reimburses you for mileage, gas, etc. 

In addition to providing workers’ compensation, your employer typically indemnifies or protects you individually from legal fees if you injure someone else. That person files a personal injury claim against your employer’s insurance. 

What Would Disqualify Me from Workers’ Compensation Benefits? 

Just as common scenarios may qualify you for workers’ comp, many situations may disqualify you for benefits. 

Criminal Activity

Any criminal activity while on the clock and using a company vehicle will disqualify you from receiving benefits. This includes drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs, engaging in prostitution, or going to commit a robbery.

Traffic Infractions

If an employee is driving recklessly or committing traffic violations, they may be at fault for the accident and not qualify for work benefits. Examples include falling asleep while driving, texting while driving, failing to obey traffic signals, careless driving, and more. 

Commuting to and from Work

Unlike car wrecks while you are on the clock, car wrecks during your commute to and from work typically aren’t covered by workers’ comp. You are not considered officially on company time because your shift has not started or has already ended.

Independent Contractor

If self-employed, you generally do not qualify for workers’ comp. 

Activity Not Authorized by Your Employer

Activities not explicitly a part of your job description can be more of a gray area. If you act outside your job duties, you might not be eligible for workers’ comp. For instance, if you are supposed to courier documents from office A to office B but stop at the mall in between without permission from your employer, you may find yourself fighting for workers’ compensation benefits. 

Can I File a Civil Lawsuit Against the Other Driver for an Accident on the Job?

Whether or not you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit against the negligent driver. If the other driver was negligent and caused the accident, you may have a civil claim against them. Filing a lawsuit against the negligent driver can be appropriate in certain situations, especially if you have ongoing and long-term pain, lost wages, and other negative consequences from the accident. 

Worker’s compensation covers only medical bills and a portion of lost wages and medical bills. It does not cover pain and suffering or other non-economic damages. A lawsuit against a negligent driver can help you recover these damages.  

Third-Party Complaint

You may also have a viable third-party complaint. Suppose the cause of the accident was a vehicle defect such as faulty brakes or a malfunctioning engine. In that case, you may have a claim against a third party, including the vehicle or parts manufacturer. 

What If Both Drivers Are Partially at Fault?

Under New York’s comparative negligence statute, all parties involved in a work-related motor vehicle accident can seek compensation according to their liability. The statute also extends to liable employers. Simply put, both parties at fault for an accident can sue the other party. However, the amount of compensation each party receives will depend on the level of their contribution to the accident.

Example Scenario

If Driver A was texting while driving and ran through a red light and Driver B was speeding, and they collided in an intersection, both drivers may be at fault for the accident. If Driver A was driving a company car, their employer might be held vicariously liable for Driver B’s injuries.

New York City Taxi & Rideshare 

New York, particularly New York City, is unique due to the prevalence of taxis and rideshare vehicles. Under New York law, employers must carry workers’ comp insurance, and employees are generally entitled to benefits. Workers’ comp insurance covers employees, not independent contractors. In NYC, many taxi and rideshare drivers are independent contractors and, therefore, not typically entitled to workers’ comp benefits. 

New York Work Injury Lawyers

At Ferrante & Koenig, we understand the minutes, hours, and days following an on-the-job car accident can be filled with fear and anxiety, so we provide each client with open communication and personalized attention. If you are unsure whether you may have a workers’ compensation claim, a civil claim for damages, or both, don’t fret. Contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. We will assess all options available to you.

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