What to do if I was driving a company car and hit and a dog?

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What to do if I was driving a company car and hit and a dog?

I was on company business. Am I liable to pay the deductible if the dog owner was never found or is the company liable? I can’t remember if they made me sign a contract saying that I assume liabilty. If they did, am I liable? If they didn’t, am I liable?

Asked on December 21, 2012 under Accident Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The dog owner could seek reimbursment of the cost of the dog or its medical treatment from either you (the driver) or your employer (since you were driving the company car). However, if your employer or its insurer pays, either or both could seek the amount they spent from you, if you were at-fault (careless or negligent) in how you were driving. That is the key legal issue: the dog owner is not entitled to recover money unless you were at fault, and your company or its insurer should likewise not be able to collect from you unless you were at fault. Liability, or the financial obligation to pay, in cases like this depends on fault.

That said: your company or insurer may elect to pay regardless of fault, to avoid the cost of defending a lawsuit. If they do pay, they may expect you to reimburse them. If you choose not to, bear in mind that unless you have a written employment contract, you are an employee at will and may be fired at any time, for any reason--including hitting a dog while driving the company car, whether or not a court ever finds you liable.


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