CanI be forced to pay for an accident that I had in a company vehicle?

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CanI be forced to pay for an accident that I had in a company vehicle?

I was involved in an accident which was not my fault while driving a taxi. There were no written policies at the time that the accident occurred. We were told not to use the vehicles for personal use, however as there were no policies this statement was left up to us to define. I was on my way to get a bite to eat immediately after I left work to go home. There was damage to the vehicle and the girl involved lied to her insurance company and said that she caused no harm. When her insurance refused to pay I was forced to.

Asked on August 13, 2011 Mississippi

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First, IF you were at fault, you would be potentially be liable, whether or not you were using a company vehicle at the time; the at-fault driver is always potentially liable, even is his/her employer could be liable, too. Note that while you say the girl lied and the accident was not your fault, it seems from what you write that the insurer disagreed with that conclusion.

Second, unfortunately, "personal use" is not for you to define. In the law, words are given their usual and ordinary meanings, unless defined otherwise. "Personal use" is use for your own benefit or driving somewhere *not* required by the company. Unless the company sent you out to get food (e.g. to bring it back for a meeting or client), going for food is clearly personal use. Thus you were apparently not using the company vehicle in a permitted way, and because you were not using it in a permitted way, would be liable for the damages caused.

Third, if you don't have an employment contract, you are an employee at will. Employees at will may be fired at any time, for any reason. If you damaged a company vehicle, the company could choose  to fire you unless you paid for the damage.


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