Accident between two employees driving work vehicles in a parking lot...

by Katie

This concerns an accident between two employees driving work vehicles in the company parking lot. Vehicle one was backing out of a parking spot, vehicle two went to go around vehicle 1 and they collided. Both drivers were given post-accident drug tests. Vehicle 2 driver tested positive for drugs.

Should Vehicle 1 driver be held responsible for the accident and paying the insurance deductible because they were backing up, or would vehicle 2 driver be at fault due to drug use and impaired judgement?

Company management is claiming the positive drug test is irrelevant to the accident. Then why have a mandatory post-accident drug test? Should we consult an employment attorney? Thank you for any perspective you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Accident between two employees driving work vehicles in a parking lot...":

Katie (NJ):

Most employers carry collision and liability insurance for employees and company vehicles. When a car accident occurs while an employee is acting within the "scope of work duties," the insurance company will normally pay for property damage. This means the employee must have been acting on behalf of his employer while performing normal work duties.

This seems to be the case under the facts you present. In your fact scenario, the cars were on the company parking lot and were ostensibly being driven, when one or both of the drivers were either leaving the parking lot to begin their work duties, or returning from their work duties.

Alternatively, if the accident occurred during a normal business day when one of the employees stopped at a local bar for a drink, that employee would most likely not have been acting within the scope of his or her normal work duties. As a result, the employee would likely be liable for any car or property the employee damaged.

Employers can require their employees to pay the deductible for damages caused to company vehicles, whether the company vehicle was being driven during the scope of the employee's duties or not. Speak with your supervisor or employer. Ask what the policy is regarding car accidents in company vehicles. The drivers will likely be bound by that policy.

While company policy dictates employees' responsibility for car accidents, you have a good point. If it was determined the driver of vehicle 2 had drugs in his system, and the drugs impaired his driving ability, then the employer should require that employee pay the deductibles for both cars.

This is because the drugs may have caused the driver to have been negligent. That negligence should certainly be taken into account by the employer. Learn more about the concept of negligence in personal injury claims here and here.

It is likely the driver of vehicle 2 will have his employment terminated. This presumes the drugs in his or her system were illegal, or were legal but impaired his driving.

Unfortunately, New Jersey is an At-Will employment state. This means absent a written employment contract or proof of discrimination, an employee may be fired for any reason.

Unfortunately, if the driver of vehicle 1 refuses to pay the deductible, his employment may be terminated and the employer may deduct the cost of the deductible from the employee's final pay check.

For more information about New Jersey employment laws go to the State of New Jersey's Department of Labor and Workforce Development website.

Under the facts you present, it doesn't appear an attorney could do much good. Moreover, retaining an attorney would likely cost more than the deductible. In addition, having an attorney means the driver of vehicle 1 becomes an adversary to his employer. That may result in the driver having his employment terminated.

Nonetheless, it's always a good idea to get a free consultation from a local attorney. You never know what kind of liability issues may present themselves when the facts are scrutinized more carefully.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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by: Katie

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