Employer Liability For Company Cars Involved In Accidents

“When a vehicle is supplied by an employer for the mutual benefit of himself and his employee to facilitate the progress of the employee’s work, employment begins when the workman enters the vehicle and ends when he leaves it on the termination of his labor.” This statement is an exception to the general rule that coming to or going from work is usually not considered to be work within the scope of employment. However, if an employer furnishes a company owned vehicle to an employee for his use to come to work and be on call for the master’s business 24/7 either via a radio, dispatch system, cell phone or other type of communication device, then in that event, a jury question is present as to whether an employee coming to or going from work is acting within the scope of his employment.
If an employer allows an employee to take a company vehicle home every evening so that it will be available for the employee to perform his duties on an expedited basis the very next morning or if the employee’s truck is furnished with a two-way radio, as an example, where the employee is subject to the direction and control of his supervisors whenever they wish to communicate with him, and/or if the employer furnishes fuel and provides the truck for the mutual benefit of both the employer and employee, under any of these circumstances, there may be an exception to the general rule that an employee typically is not working for his employer until he arrives at the office.
Most of the cases that deal with an employee coming and going to work do not deal with employees driving company vehicles. Under Georgia law, if an employee is involved in an accident while driving an employer’s vehicle, a presumption arises that the employee was on the business of the master. The burden is upon the master to show that the employee was not. If the truck was furnished 24/7 so that the employee would be available for call and/or available to the employer and/or if the vehicle is used as a rolling billboard or advertisement for the employer’s business, then clearly under such circumstances, the vehicle is being used both for the benefit of the employer and the employee.

In any case involving a company vehicle, counsel should look very closely at the facts and circumstances involved to see if the employee was acting “within the scope of his employment,” even if the employee was on the way to work or on the way home. While all these cases are factually specific, there are some good cases under Georgia law which support the proposition that where a company vehicle is furnished for the mutual benefit of both the employee and the employer an accident does arise “within the scope of employment” in such cases. Such a finding, of course, means that legally the employer is responsible for the acts of its employee.

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