Accident while at work

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Accident while at work

If I was working while involved in a
car accident and was at fault, am I
liable, my employer, or both?

Asked on April 22, 2016 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Liability in a car accident depends on fault, so--
1) You would be liable if you were at fault--i.e. were driving negligently or carelessly (such as speeding, generally driving recklessly, texting while driving, DUI, going throug a stop light, driving too fast for the conditions, etc.)--and caused the accident. It doesn't matter if you were working or not at the time.
2) Your employer could be liable to either you or to a third party you injured in the accident if they were at fault--for example, it was a company car and the accident occured due to poor maintenance.
3) In addition, if you were driving for work and injured a third party (or damaged a third party's property, like someone else's car) and you were at fault (see 1), above) in causing the accident, the employer could be liable to a third party (not to you) under the theory of "respondeat superior" (or "let the master answer/respond"), under which an employer is liable for the neglient acts of its employees committed during the course of work.
Note that if you both you and the employer are liable, an injured person gets to chose which (or both) of you to sue: the injured party could sue you, could sue your employer, or could sue you both.
4) If another person (e.g. another driver) was at fault in causing the accident, he/she would be liable for it.


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