Millions of people get behind the wheel for work every day, ranging from truck drivers passing through Austin to business professionals meeting with clients in Dallas. Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the United States. In 2020, 1,038 employees died during work-related crashes.
Even if the accident is minor, it can still cause lasting injuries and a significant amount of damage to both company and personal property. Be prepared if you’re in an accident while driving at work. Use this guide to respond appropriately.
Steps To Take After a Work-Related Vehicle Accident
The steps to respond to a work-related vehicle accident are the same regardless of whether you’re driving a truck in El Paso, a company vehicle in Houston, a personal vehicle in Waco, or otherwise. Your safety is the most important factor, followed by clear documentation of the crash. Here’s what you need to do.
Get to safety and call 911
While vehicle safety has come a long way over the years, reducing the number of car and truck accidents annually, it’s not uncommon for people to experience a variety of injuries in the wake of a crash. You might notice immediate pain caused by broken bones or burns, but then discover that you also have internal injuries, issues with your spinal cord and potentially a traumatic brain injury once you are evaluated by medical professionals.
This is why your first step is to call 911. Alert the police that there’s been an accident so they can block the road and request an ambulance to take the injured parties to the hospital. Even if you do not think you are injured, go to the hospital to get checked out. Pain is often delayed after an accident because of the adrenaline rush that comes with it.
If you and the other parties in the crash can move without further injuring yourself, get to safety. Get off the road and onto a sidewalk where you can wait for help. Another driver might not pay attention and could hit your crashed car, causing further harm to everyone involved. Once you’re in a safe location, wait for help to arrive to sort out the accident.
If you are medically stable and waiting for the ambulance to arrive, collect information related to the crash and all parties involved. Documenting this information now will help you in the future. Here’s what you need to do.
- Get the contact information of the other driver, including their name, phone number, email address and physical address.
- If they are driving for work when the crash occurs, make a note of their employer.
- Take pictures and videos of the accident from a safe location. Get multiple angles of the crash and document where and why it occurred.
- Document any injuries with photos and video as well. Even if you only feel a little sore, it’s important to record the symptoms on-site.
After your adrenaline settles from the crash, you might forget some important details from the accident. Collecting information and recording your story immediately after the crash will provide clear documentation of what happened.
Report the incident
Once you have all the necessary information related to the accident, you can properly report it. You will need to file a formal police report about the crash and tell your employer about the incident. Both parties might want copies of your documentation—including photos and videos.
You will also need to start working with insurance providers to get compensated for the crash. You will either talk to your own insurance provider or your company’s insurance provider depending on who owns the vehicle. These companies will also need to see the police report and documentation as part of your claim.
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What Is a Work-Related Accident?
A work-related accident occurs because of an event in the work environment while someone is on the job. The exact definition and coverage of these accidents varies by state, but the general idea is that you get in an accident while clocked in and performing tasks expected by your boss.
Oftentimes, it’s easier to highlight examples of what doesn’t count as a work-related accident. For example, if an employee is at their worksite but is not working when they are injured (like a McDonald’s employee eating a meal after they clock out), it doesn’t count as a work-related accident. Injuries caused by extracurricular activities, like playing in a company dodgeball league after work, also don’t count.
It’s important to have a clear definition of what counts as a work-related accident in your field because then you would know whether you can file for workers’ compensation. This is when the company covers the costs related to the injury and any resulting time off (lost wages).
What Does Worker’s Compensation Cover?
In the days following a work-related accident, you might be surprised by the number of expenses you accrue. Not only will you start to receive medical bills for your injuries, but you will also stop earning money if you are unable to return to work. Workers’ compensation covers various expenses because employees were injured while completing tasks for the company. Here are a few things you can expect to have covered:
- Medical expenses: This should include both your immediate medical expenses and your follow-up appointments. It might also cover long-term physical therapy.
- Lost income: If you cannot work after an injury, this insurance will cover your lost income. It might also cover lost retirement investments and other benefits.
- Death benefits: These benefits provide financial support for families if any employee dies while on the job.
Your company’s policies and state legal guidelines will determine the extent of your workers’ compensation coverage in the wake of an accident. Often, workers’ compensation doesn’t cover the full extent of the damages or all the treatment your doctor recommends. Your company may not even offer workers’ compensation. That’s why it’s extremely important to have a free consultation with a personal injury attorney before accepting worker’s compensation.
The consultation will tell you how much compensation you should actually receive. If you opt to retain an attorney, they will help you get fully compensated for your injury—which might not happen with workers’ compensation.
What About Personal Injury Claims?
Personal injury claims are different from workers’ compensation. Companies often carry workers’ compensation insurance so they don’t risk facing personal injury lawsuits. However, the State of Texas does not require companies to carry this insurance. If you are injured on the job and your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance—or if you feel like your claim was wrongfully denied (or simply isn’t sufficient)—you can consider a personal injury suit.
The goal of your personal injury claim is to prove that your employer intentionally created an unsafe environment. In the case of a car or truck accident, the employer would have to have known that the vehicle was unsafe—maybe it had worn-out brakes or overheated often—but still required the employee to use it to complete their work.
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Work-Related Accident in a Company Vehicle: Who Is Responsible?
If you are driving a company vehicle on company time, then your employer should be held responsible for the accident. Not only can employers be held responsible if they provide unsafe equipment, but they can also create unsafe conditions. An employer who requires long work hours could cause fatigued driving, which is a form of distracted driving.
However, not every crash is black and white. For example, if an employee is texting or watching a video while driving, they are distracted while on the road and it has nothing to do with the employer. It’s possible that their lack of focus caused the accident, not the employer.
Employers also often take steps to reduce their liability in accidents. This is why they often monitor the speed of their work vehicles remotely to prevent reckless driving. They might also have company policies against using phones while on the road.
Work-Related Accident in a Personal Vehicle: Who Is Responsible?
If any employee is driving a personal vehicle to complete a work-related task—like a pizza delivery driver using their car—the employer can also be considered the responsible party in the crash. The employer is the reason the employee was on the road in the first place. In this case, the employee will need to seek compensation for their injuries and lost wages, but also to cover the damage to their vehicle.
There are times when workers’ compensation insurance does not cover accidents in personal vehicles. One of the most common is when an employee is driving to and from work because they are off the clock. Research these exclusions in your state to know when you are covered.
When to Contact an Attorney
If you were recently in an accident at work, either in a company or personal vehicle, you might qualify for workers’ compensation. If you don’t know whether your company carries this insurance or if your claim was wrongfully denied, contact a lawyer to discuss the details.
It’s better to involve legal professionals early on in the process to make sure you get the coverage that is due to you. Having a lawyer on your side can also help you make smart decisions when working with your employer and their insurance company.
Find a reputable law group in your area that specializes in workers’ compensation claims. Their insight and support will be priceless. You’ll be able to rest assured you’re getting the right amount of money to cover all of the losses from your accident.