Who is liable for damages in the event of an accident with the company car??

A company car is an attractive additional offer for employees: according to a survey by the Staufenbiel Institute, 44 percent of employers offer university graduates a company car as an addition to their salary. The car from the boss does not release the employee from his own responsibility, for example in case of an accident.

Employee may have been grossly, moderately or slightly negligent in company car accident. Photo: ©monkeybusiness/Depositphotos.com

Who has to pay for damage to a company car and when, knows Michaela Rassat, a lawyer at the D.A.S. Rechtsschutz Leistungs-GmbH (D.A.S. Benefits Service).

A company car is a car owned or leased by the employer. He makes it available to his employee for official and often also for private purposes. "If the employee is also allowed to use the car privately, this is usually regulated in the employment contract," adds Michaela Rassat, lawyer for the D.A.S. Benefit service.

If an accident occurs during a private trip, the courts do not rule uniformly: In an older ruling, the Cologne Regional Labor Court assumed full liability on the part of the employee (Az. 13 Sa 367/98). However, the Hessian Regional Labor Court ruled that the employer tacitly undertakes to bear the private accident costs if it permits private journeys and correct taxation of the pecuniary advantage of this use takes place (Az. 8 Sa 1729/05). If the accident happens during a business trip, the courts apply rules they have developed specifically for damage cases in the employment relationship. Because, in purely legal terms, the employee inflicts damage on the employer as the owner of the vehicle. Whether and how much he must contribute to the accident damage depends on the degree of negligence with which the driver caused the accident.

Gross, moderate or slight negligence in company car accident

If the driver acted intentionally or with gross negligence, i.e. if he was driving under the influence of alcohol or talking on a cell phone while driving, the question of guilt is quickly clarified. "For damages caused intentionally and by gross negligence, the employee is usually solely liable," according to the D.A.S. Expert.

If the driver rear-ended the car in front of him due to insufficient distance, there is a case of moderate negligence. If so, the driver must contribute to the costs. Most company cars have fully comprehensive insurance, but this is usually supplemented by a deductible. In the event of an accident caused by average negligence, the employee's liability is limited to the deductible.

Lawyers speak of slight negligence in the case of carelessness: If, for example, the driver has caused an accident in icy conditions despite driving carefully. In this case, the employer or the car insurance company will cover the damage – even if the insurance policy provides for a deductible. In the event of an accident that is not the fault of the driver, the liability insurance of the other party to the accident pays.

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