3 Things You Should Know If You're In A Work-Related Auto Accident

Posted on: 9 July 2015

If you've been hurt in an accident while driving your car or truck at work, you need to know whether your employer will step up to pay the bills while you're convalescing -- and what your options are if they won't. Here are three important things to keep in mind following a work-related vehicular incident.

You Can't Just Be Sitting in the Vehicle

Simply sitting in the driver's seat of a company car or truck at the time of your injury doesn't make you a workers' compensation candidate. You must be considered to be "on the job" at the time of the incident, whether you're in a company car or your own vehicle. This means you were either performing duties specific to your work description or performing tasks related to your employer's necessary operations. 

"On the job" may refer to local or long-distance work in your vehicle at the time of the accident. If you were on an errand to buy office supplies, for instance, or transporting a co-worker to or from work, you were on the job. If you were traveling at the behest of your employer when the accident took place, you were on the job. If you're really not sure one way or the other, make sure you get clarification from a car or truck accident lawyer.

Workers' Compensation Isn't a "Blank Check"

It's a tremendous relief to know that you're covered by workers' compensation if you're facing major surgery, extensive downtime, or costly rehabilitation following a work-related auto accident. But don't assume that you've hit some sort of jackpot. Workers' compensation is expressly intended to cover your necessary medical expenses and some, but not all, of your lost wages. If you've sustained some degree of permanent disability, you'll receive a lump sum settlement. Be aware, however, that once you accept the settlement you may lose the right to dispute the amount or receive further care.

Workers' compensation does not award any money for pain and suffering -- which can come to a significant amount in and of itself, depending on how your personal injury lawyer calculates it. Nor does it offer any compensation to injured passengers who don't work for your employer. These individuals are limited to suing the employer for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other compensation.

You Might Not Be Limited to Workers' Compensation

If you're involved in a straightforward auto accident involving a work vehicle on company time, you'll probably receive workers' compensation for your medical expenses and move on with your life. Employers and employees are generally held to the "exclusive remedy" clause in workers' compensation law, which prevents the employee from seeking outside damages in a lawsuit. But there are situations in which you can successfully sue for additional or alternative compensation. These include:

  • Intentional injury by your employer - If your boss actually hit your work truck with another work vehicle in an attempt to maim or kill you, a truck accident lawyer can file and possibly win a civil lawsuit against that person.
  • Inadequate workers' compensation coverage by your employer - Every state except Texas requires employers to carry a certain minimum amount of workers' compensation insurance. If your employer has violated the law by not carrying the necessary minimum, you can file a lawsuit to obtain compensation. 
  • Injury by a driver of a private vehicle - If you were injured in a work vehicle (while performing your job) by the driver of a private vehicle, you may be able to win both workers' compensation from your employer and civil compensation from the offending driver. The workers' compensation would cover your medical expenses and some of your lost wages, while the private lawsuit would cover the remainder of your lost wages plus compensation for pain and suffering.

Whenever you're looking at a significant financial setback from a work-related vehicular injury, you should schedule a consultation with an auto accident lawyer from a firm, such as Arrington Schelin & Munsey PC, to discuss your options. Workers' compensation may work out beautifully for you, but it pays to have legal expertise on your side throughout the compensation process. Good luck!