Who Is Liable For Work Vehicle Accidents?

Many people have a fairly good understanding of how liability insurance works for their own personal vehicles.  They go to an insurance company, pick out a plan, choose their coverage and deductible amounts, and file a claim if they are ever involved in an accident.  Alaska law requires a minimum amount of liability insurance if a person drives on our roads, so this process is usually fairly straightforward.  Many drivers now carry uninsured motorist coverage to protect them against those who fail to insure their own vehicles, as well. 

However, the picture becomes a bit less clear when dealing with a company vehicle.  If you are an employee of a company, are you liable for damages under your own personal policy if you cause an accident while driving a company car?  What if you are a passenger in a company vehicle driven by someone else who has his or her own liability insurance?  If a person driving a car for another company hits you while you are driving your personal vehicle, who pays?  These are all questions that can become very confusing and may take a bit of sifting of personal injury law to sort out. 

Liability for Company Vehicle Accidents

Like many states, Alaska is considered an “at fault” liability state.  This means that in Alaska, one driver can be held liable for the damages caused by a vehicle accident provided it can be shown that the driver was at fault for the crash.  Alaska law requires drivers to carry a minimum of $50,000 per person for bodily injury liability; $100,000 per accident for bodily injury liability; and $25,000 per accident for property damage liability. 

However, most people and businesses choose to carry much more than this.  The cost of accidents is very high, and the minimum requirements are no longer reflective of the true cost of a vehicle accident, particularly if more than one person is injured.  Therefore, companies often set their liability limits much higher than the minimums. 

What this means is that if a company owns the vehicle involved in a crash, there may be more money available to pay for damages than that provided by liability insurance for the individual driving.  If the person driving is at fault, his or her own insurance may be required to pay; however, once those limits have been met, if there are no other assets to pay for damages, the company’s liability insurance may be required to meet the balance of the costs. 

What Happens If I Am Driving A Company Car?

In most cases, if you are driving a company car, the company’s liability insurance is the first to pay.  This is because you are operating under what is known as the “scope of employment.”  When a person is acting on behalf of an employer, an employer generally takes on certain responsibilities regarding the employee.  Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, particularly if the employee behaves in a negligent manner, such as drinking on the job or committing a crime. 

If you are the victim of an accident while a passenger in a company car, the same rules generally apply.  However, if you are a victim who is injured as a private driver or passenger by another driver in a company vehicle, it may be necessary to sue both the driver and the company in order to pay for your claim.  In some cases, it is necessary to follow multiple lines of inquiry to find the policies that will pay for medical and other expenses related to your accident.  The situation becomes even more complicated if the company’s driver was behaving in a negligent manner. 

These are not unusual scenarios.  In many cases, when a company vehicle is involved, and particularly when there are multiple injuries, multiple insurance companies may be involved in settling an accident claim.  Settlement can become complicated very quickly and may require the victims to seek the help of a personal injury attorney. 

If you are facing a complicated personal injury claim involving a commercial vehicle, help is available.  Call Barber & Associates today to learn more.  We have been helping Alaska personal injury victims for many years, and we can help you as well! 

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