Some employers, such as newspapers and restaurants that offer delivery options, require their employees to drive their own vehicles for work. In nearly all cases, your employer is legally financially responsible for what happens while you drive your car for work-related reasons. Depending on the agreement you and your employer have about using your car for work, you may be able to get reimbursed for car-related expenses, such as gas or mileage.
If you're in an accident while driving your car for a work-related task, and you're cited for the accident, your employer can be held liable. Job-related tasks include anything you do at your employer’s request. Your employer does not have to expressly ask you to perform the task each and every time; if counts just the same if the task is part of your regular job responsibilities. Your employer usually cannot be held liable if the accident occurs during your off-hours.
Your employer can be held accountable for accidents that occur because you are distracted, such as by talking on a cell phone. While no state outright bans the use of cell phones while driving, some states ban beginning drivers or drivers of certain vehicles from using cell phones. You should know the laws that govern your use of a cell phone where you live. Your employer can limit liability by putting in place a policy that prohibits cell phone use during work hours while you are driving and by giving you information about state-specific laws that govern cell phone use while driving. Your employer can also limit or outright avoid liability by getting you to sign a statement that limits or completely clears your employer of liability if you are in an accident while violating your employer’s cell phone use policy.
State and federal laws govern how, when and why your employer can reimburse you for expenses you incur while driving your car for work. Employers have three options for reimbursing employees for car-related expenses -- paying actual costs, paying a standard rate per mile driven, or offering a fixed or variable allowance. If you receive a fixed or variable allowance, you'll be reimbursed a standard rate per mile driven and receive a fixed or variable payment for the costs associated with driving your car, including depreciation or lease payments, insurance and registration, and license fees. Ask your employer how she wants you to give information about your work-related car expenses. She may want you to keep a log of miles driven and receipts from gas purchases. Keeping copies for your records as well is a wise practice.
If you are an independent contractor, also know as contractor worker and freelance worker, your "employer" is usually not held liable for accidents that occur during work-related activities. As a contract worker, you will usually sign a contract that spells out the limits of your “employer’s” liability. You can write off expenses you incur as a result of your freelance work. Federal and state laws govern vehicle expenses you can claim on tax returns, such as mileage.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.