Coverage for cars: Commercial auto insurance is necessary for company vehicles, fleets and even personal autos used on the job

Monday, April 19, 2010
J.W. Transport employee John Rocha opens the hood of a dump truck at J.W. Transport in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 (KRISTIN EBERTS)

Company vehicles may provide convenience; a uniform, professional image; and even on-the-go marketing, but they also require a lock-tight commercial insurance policy.

"With more vehicles you have more risk, so you need more protection," explains Nathan Brown, an insurance agent with W.E. Walker-Lakenan of Jackson. Whether you have one business vehicle or 100, says Brown, each vehicle needs to have a commercial auto insurance policy in place. The good news is that companies with large fleets or few accidents are usually eligible for discounts, says Rob Johnson, an agent and consultant with The Daniel and Henry Co. of Cape Girardeau.

Johnson recommends at least $1 million each in liability coverage, uninsured and underinsured driver coverage and hired/non-owned auto coverage, as well as proper comprehensive and collision coverage. Bigger vehicles can do bigger damage, which leads to bigger medical bills and lawsuits, adds Brown -- some companies may want to consider an umbrella policy for additional coverage.

Johnson advises employers to establish a company auto driving policy -- if employees take the company vehicles home at night, for example, it's important to know how they're using the vehicles. The business is at risk for a lawsuit whether the employee is using the vehicle for business or driving it outside of business hours, says Johnson.

Both Johnson and Brown say it's essential for employers to check the motor vehicle records of all employees who might drive a company vehicle. An employee with several tickets or accidents will likely drive the same way on the job -- thereby posing a risk to your business and vehicles. Update the list annually and whenever you hire new employees, and be sure to update your insurance agent about any new drivers or new vehicles.

If an employee does have an accident while driving a company vehicle, Brown says the company's commercial auto insurance policy should cover the damages. However, if the driver is doing something illegal while driving, the company does have the right to deny the claim.

Commercial auto insurance also comes into play for employees using their own vehicles for business purposes.

"If in any way whatsoever -- and I mean any way -- you use your personal vehicle or a vehicle titled by your company, it needs to be on a commercial auto policy," stresses Brown. Any employee who owns his own car and uses it for business -- whether it's for daily sales calls or just a trip to the post office -- can put his employer at risk if he gets into an accident. That's why Johnson always recommends hired or non-owned auto coverage for all businesses, whether they have company vehicles or not -- this coverage protects employers from being sued or held liable if an employee has an accident while driving his own vehicle on the job.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: