Am I liable for damages to a company vehicle if the accident happened on the job?

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Am I liable for damages to a company vehicle if the accident happened on the job?

I need to know if I’m liable for damages to one of the company cars. I had an accident while working. There was a snow storm and the vehicle spun out of my control and hit the highway median. I signed a company equipment misuse waiver that says employees are liable for negligent damage to company vehicles. I was in no way being negligent. If anything the road conditions were too dangerous and I shouldn’t have been sent out in the first place. I’ve heard from other employees that my employer doesn’t use the company’s insurance to pay for accidents and elects to pay for the repairs himself and then takes it out of their paychecks. Which is why I’m concerned.

Asked on April 16, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If an employee damages an employer's property (like a vehicle), either deliberately or negligently, the employer can expect the employee to pay for the damage--and if the employee does not voluntarily pay, the employer could sue him or her, the same as  it could sue any person who damaged its property. The fact that an accident occured on the job does not mean the employer cannot seek reimbursement or compensation; the issue is whether the employee was at fault (intentional bad act or negligence) and whether the employer can prove that.

The employer may not take the cost out of the employee's paycheck, however. To recover money which it feels its employees owe it, an employer would have to sue them, prove it's case, win, and get a court judgment in its favor (assuming that the employees do not voluntarily choose to pay).

Of course, if you do not have an employment contact which protects your employment, your employer could choose to fire you if it believes  you have cost it money and refuse to take responsibility for  that--it does not need to prove anything or take you to court to do this. Even if you are fired, though, the employer may not deduct from your final paycheck without your consent.


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