Can my employer force me to pay damages on a commercial vehicle?

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Can my employer force me to pay damages on a commercial vehicle?

I hit a car from behind in my work van. Apparently the company does not have collision on the van so my employer is telling me that I have to pay for the expenses to repair the van. Am I legally responsible for this since I am an insurer driver of the company and employeed by the owner of the vehicle?

Asked on April 5, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The key issue is whether you were at fault in causing the accident. If an employee is at fault in causing damage to an empoyer's vehicle, the employer may seek reimbursement of their costs or losses from the employer--the  law does not require the employer to bear the cost when someone else is at fault.  If the at-fault employee refuses to pay, the employer may not withhold the cost from his or her wages, but could choose to sue him or her; in that event, if the employer proves the employee's fault--for example, his or her negligence, or carelessness--in court, the employer could recover the damages from him  or her.

If the employee was not at fault (i.e. not negligent), then he or she would not be financially responsible for  the damage. In that case, the employer should sue the other, at-fault driver.

However, as an additional wrinkle, if you  do not have an employment contract, you are an "employee at will." If  you are an employee at will, the employer may fire you at any time, for any reason--including that you did not take financial responsibility for the damage.


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