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What’s the answer? Car used for business purposes

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Catherine Herridge gets legal guidance this week from Sarah Bird, employment law expert at Browne Jacobson and Martin Brewer, a Partner with the employment team of Mills & Reeve on where the liability lies, when an employee’s car used for business purposes, is involved in an accident.



The question:
Can you let me know who becomes responsible, if an employee who used their own car for business, had an accident, but it was later found that the accident was caused because the car was considered not to be road worthy and its servicing was not up to date. Is it the owner for not keeping it in good working order or the company for not keeping a check to ensure it was fully road worthy or a bit of both?

Catherine Herridge

The answers:
Sarah Bird, employment law expert, Browne Jacobson
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An employee is responsible for the care and maintenance of their own car. If they are required to use their car in the course of their employment they should have up to date insurance for business use on their own policy or be insured under a company policy.

Employers do have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their employees at work and a number of particular obligations are imposed under health and safety legislation.

Where an employee regularly uses their own car for business use, matters such as insurance cover, responsibility for the care and maintenance of the vehicle and steps to take in event of an accident should be set out in the employee’s terms and conditions of employment or preferably in a separate car policy.

It is not enough to simply put a policy in place, it needs to be explained to employees and enforced. An employer would be able to use this to show that it was taking reasonable steps to ensure the safety of employees.

In this case, liability for any potential claims will depend on the exact circumstances/consequences of the accident. For instance, if the employee was driving the car when it was not roadworthy it is likely that any action would be taken against the employee personally.

Sarah can be contacted at: [email protected]

Martin Brewer, is a Partner with the employment team of Mills & Reeve
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Catherine, it really rather depends which type of claim you are looking at. From an employment perspective you should insist that all such cars are kept roadworthy, regularly serviced, MOT’d and insured and you should reserve the right to examine documentation to satisfy yourself that this is being done.

The law recognises the concept of vicarious liability and, by and large, those who are injured will pursue those who have the money-the employer. So if an accident is caused by your employee ‘in the course of’ them carrying out their duties, you may well be liable. Furthermore, if you are insured, you will need to ensure that you don’t do, or fail to do anything that could invalidate that insurance, such as allowing staff to use unsafe vehicles for work purposes.

Martin can be contacted at: [email protected]

See more What’s the answer? items here.

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Annie Hayes

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