Let a Fort Lauderdale Company Vehicle Accident Lawyer Assist with Your Claim
According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, more than 3,000 car accidents occur every year in Florida while a person is driving a company owned vehicle. Over the last ten years, people injured in these car accidents have lost an average of $10,000 in lost wages, and average almost $29,000 in medical bills. If you are injured while driving a company owned vehicle, can you make a claim to recover your lost wages and money for your medical bills? Our Fort Lauderdale company vehicle lawyer says yes.
In Florida, you may actually have two separate claims to pursue if you’re injured while driving a company vehicle. If you’re injured in a company vehicle while in the course of your daily employment, you claim will be covered by Florida’s Workers Compensation Laws. In addition to a workers compensation claim, you can also pursue your rights through Florida’s Car Accident Laws. However, Florida’s workers compensation laws provide for different benefits than you can recover through Florida’s car accident laws, so it is worthwhile to pursue both types of claims.
Understanding Liability in a Company Vehicle Accident
When an accident involves a company car or a delivery vehicle, the situation can get very complicated. Several different areas of liability law may overlap in the circumstances of a single case. A Fort Lauderdale company vehicle lawyer will investigate each possibility to determine all the parties who could be required to pay damages.
In many situations, an employer can be held legally responsible for the negligent actions taken by employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Essentially, this doctrine holds that employers should be held accountable for actions that occurred as part of their business.
For an employer to be held responsible when an employee causes an accident:
- The worker must be an employee under the control of the employer
- The accident must occur while the employee is working (traveling to or from work usually doesn’t count)
- The employee’s actions must be within the “scope” of employment
- The accident occurred while the employee was undertaking a task that was part of the job
Courts have held that an employee’s actions are within the scope of employment if they are undertaken to serve the employer, at least in part, and are performed within reasonable time and space limits.
In some cases, a skilled attorney could hold an employer liable under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine as well. This doctrine does not necessarily require a showing of negligence, but rather holds that a company that owns a tool that is inherently dangerous is responsible for harm caused when that tool is used with consent. Florida courts have held that a motor vehicle can be considered a dangerous instrument.
Finally, an employer might also be liable for their own negligence if they acted irresponsibly in allowing the employee to operate the vehicle. For example, if they hired or retained a driver with a history of driving while intoxicated or failed to train an employee on how to handle a vehicle with special functions, the employer could be considered negligent.
If the employee was running a personal errand at the time of the accident, they could be held individually liable. The employee would definitely be liable if they were committing some type of crime, such as drunk driving or driving 50 mph over the speed limit.
In that situation, even if the employee was operating in the scope of employment, the employer would probably not be liable for the criminal actions of the employee. Of course, if the employee was impaired by alcohol served at a company function, each attorney at our Fort Lauderdale workers’ comp law firm knows the employer may not be able to escape liability for the criminal action.
When an outside party’s action causes an accident, they can be held liable even if they weren’t present at the time. For instance, if a property owner created a dangerous condition that blocked visibility on the road, or another vehicle dropped debris that caused someone to lose control of a vehicle, that third party could be required to pay for damages. If that third party was acting in the scope of their employment, an attorney might also be able to hold that employer liable.
Who Pays My Medical Bills if I am Injured While Driving a Company Vehicle in Florida?
One of the first questions clients ask after being injured in a car accident is how they will pay for their medical bills. If you are injured while driving a company owned vehicle, you actually have two options for payment of medical bills
- Workers compensation
- Advantages – medical bills paid for by the insurance company 100%
- Disadvantages – the insurance company gets to choose which doctors you see
- Personal Injury Protection Insurance (PIP)
- Advantages – you get to choose which doctors you want to see, and for whatever injury you believe is related to your accident
- Disadvantages – PIP only pays 80% of your reasonable medical bills leaving 20% of the bills to be paid out of your settlement
You can also take advantage of both types of insurance coverage. Treating with a doctor through workers compensation can sometimes be delayed as the scheduling works its way through the insurance company adjusters. Many clients will choose to obtain their initial medical care through workers compensation, and leave their PIP benefits in reserve just in case they want to see a doctor that workers compensation will not approve, or if the workers compensation insurance company is too slow in approving or scheduling doctor appointments.
Who Pays My Lost Wages if I Miss Time from Work?
The Florida Department of Financial Services statistics show that almost 30% of persons injured in a car accident while driving a company owned vehicle suffer lost wages as a result of the accident. How do you get your wages repaid? Your lost wages after a car accident can be covered under both Florida’s workers compensation laws, and by Florida’s car accident laws.
Workers Compensation Wages
If a workers compensation doctor states that you are unable to work, or that you are only able to work light duty and your employer does not have light duty work available, you are entitled to 66 2/3 % of your average weekly wages prior to your accident. For example, if you were earning $500 per week on average prior to your car accident, the workers compensation insurance company would have to pay you $333 ($500 x 66 2/3 % = $333). You can also receive workers compensation wage benefits if you are back at work following your accident, but your injuries result in you making less than 80% of your average weekly wages.
PIP Insurance Wages
Florida’s PIP Insurance will also pay for your lost wages if you cannot work as a result of a car accident while driving a company owned vehicle. PIP will pay 60% of your lost wages up to the insurance policy’s limit, which is usually $10,000. Keep in mind that PIP can also be used to pay for your medical expenses, so once your policy limit of $10,000 is exhausted, you cannot recover more.
Can I Obtain a Settlement for a Company Owned Vehicle Accident?
Again, the answer is yes. And because your accident claim is covered by both workers compensation and Florida’s car accident laws, in most situations you can recover two settlements. A workers compensation settlement is designed to compensate you for your future medical bills, and future wage benefits if your doctors state you cannot return to work. Your settlement can also provide money for retraining if you cannot return to your chosen line of work.
A settlement under Florida’s car accident laws can also provide money for medical bills – both past medical bills already incurred, and money for future medical care you might need. A car accident settlement can also compensate you for lost wages. The main difference between a workers compensation settlement and a car accident settlement is that you can recover money for pain and suffering from your injuries in a car accident settlement.
Contact The Maus Law Firm Today
The Maus Law Firm has been helping clients who suffered car accident and workers compensation injuries for more than 25 years. It is critical to have a company vehicle accident attorney that is familiar with Florida’s car accident laws and with Florida’s workers compensation laws so you maximize your recovery for your injuries. Contact our attorneys now.