If a driver is engaged in business when a collision occurs, his or her employer is jointly liable for the victims’ claims and losses. Examples include salespeople or executives heading to appointments, delivery drivers, electricians, plumbers, and employees of any other company that requires their employees to leave their headquarters to meet customer needs. Most businesses that have drivers on the road handling their affairs will carry a separate business liability policy that provides additional funds beyond the car insurance available. In some cases, the business policy will be attached to a“fleet policy.” Here, all of the business’s coverages, including auto coverage and excess business liability coverage, are provided under the same policy.
If you suffer serious or catastrophic injury due to a car accident, always check to see if the driver was engaged in business for an outside employer. This may allow claims against a much larger policy to ensure that all of your losses and claims are honored and paid in full. Most commercial policies carry high limits. We often see $100,000.00 per accident for very small businesses and $1,000,000.00 or more for most businesses.
Please be aware that in commercial insurance cases with serious injuries and high coverage limits, insurers always put the very best adjusters to work defending victim claims. Insurance adjusters are cost-control experts, and they will only focus on minimizing their total claims payment responsibility. It is best to avoid early discussions with adjusters because the laws and evidence requirements are more complex. You truly should have experienced legal counsel speak for you in these cases.
In most cases the business/commercialnature of the at-fault vehicle will be obvious. For example, for a pest-control employee or a florist, the vehicle will have signs identifying the company and advertising their services. However, it is often difficult to discern whether the at-fault driver was on the job when the accident occurred. If your injuries are significant, you can either request an affidavit from the at-fault driver identifying employers and the nature of his or her journey, or compel this disclosure by filing suit and serving interrogatories on the defendant driver. Once suit is filed, you can also compel disclosure and production of the business’s driver training standards, driver safety guidelines, vehicle maintenance records, and the employer’s full commercial insurance policy.
Because commercial insurance policies carry very high coverage limits, it is imperative that you prepare the most thorough medical evidence in these cases. Unimpeachable medical testimony showing permanency of injury and your expected prognosis will allow you to collect for all future medical care costs and obtain fair compensation for all pain and suffering you can expect to endure over the balance of your life.
Example: Business Policy Pays Million-Dollar Settlement
Our client, Robert O., was injured in a motorcycle accident caused when a driver pulled across his lane to check a mailbox. The mailbox belonged to an auto-body repair facility, and we confirmed that the driver who crossed into Robert’s lane was checking for business mail. Since the driver was on a business errand, we were able to reach beyond the car insurance policy and access the body shop’s commercial insurance policy. Because Robert’s injuries were significant, and because their coverage limits were high, they fought us every step of the way. From the outset the commercial insurer alleged that Robert was speeding, and they denied liability and refused all payment requests. We filed suit and pushed forward toward trial, and we ultimately collected $1,000,000.00 for Robert through a private, out-of-court settlement. We were also able to collect additional money for Robert through workers’ compensation because he was a motorcycle mechanic and he was on the job when the accident occurred.