It’s a moment that all drivers dread: a collision with another vehicle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 36,550 people died in car accidents in 2018. Collisions are more common than you think.
Most drivers know to pull over (if possible) and call 911 after an accident. But what happens if a commercial vehicle is involved in the accident?
Is the business responsible for your injuries and damage to your vehicle?
When are Businesses Liable for Car Accidents?
It’s easy to assume that a business is liable for a car accident if a company vehicle was involved. But the business can only be held liable if an employee was driving the vehicle while on the clock.
This rule can also apply to:
- Employees driving personal vehicles
- Vehicles driven by independent contractors (common with 18-wheelers)
Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. If the employee was driving in appropriately or was off the clock, the business may be off the hook for damages.
If you’re involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, it’s important to find out whether the other driver was on the job. It’s also important to find out the employer’s name and the owner of the vehicle. All of this information will help determine who is at fault and which insurance company will be involved.
If the employee was on the job when the accident occurred, the business will likely be held responsible for the actions of that employee.
How are Commercial Accidents Different?
When a commercial vehicle is involved in an accident, the law treats the business as it would a regular person.
But there are still differences between commercial accidents and accidents with ordinary drivers. These differences may very well change your case and the outcome of it.
The primary difference is the company’s insurance policy. Many larger corporations have higher self-insured limits. What this means is that they have to pay more out of their own pocket before the insurance company will step in to pay for a claim. Those limits can be $250,000 or more, depending on the size of the corporation.
It can be difficult to settle these types of cases, as they have a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. The business will go to great lengths to reduce the cost of the settlement.
If the business is headquartered out of state and your claim exceeds a certain amount, the business could force the case to go to federal court instead of state court.
Also, some businesses have a policy in which they defend every case – even if they are clearly at fault. Some companies simply refuse to settle cases and exercise their right to defend every single case. This means that you’ll need to file a lawsuit and look to a jury to resolve the claim, even if you have legitimate case.
It’s important to remember that the law applies the same to the defendant and victim, regardless of whether they’re an ordinary driver or a large corporation.