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What Happens When You're in an Accident During Work Hours?

In this blog post, we'll explore a real-life case where a man named Marcus was involved in a car accident while being driven by his assistant manager, Jeromy. Marcus tried to hold his employer, Whataburger Restaurants, responsible for the accident. The court had to decide whether the employer was liable for the actions of its employee. This case helps us understand when an employer might be responsible for a car accident involving an employee.

Background of the Case

Marcus was a passenger in a car driven by Jeromy, his assistant manager at Whataburger. They were on their way to another Whataburger location. Marcus claimed that Jeromy's negligence caused the accident and that Whataburger should be held responsible because Jeromy was acting within the scope of his employment.

What is "Scope of Employment"?

When we talk about the "scope of employment," we mean the tasks an employee is doing as part of their job. For an employer to be responsible for an accident, the employee needs to be doing something related to their job duties at the time of the accident.

What Did the Court Decide?

The court looked at several factors to decide if Jeromy was acting within the scope of his employment:

  1. Was Jeromy doing something he was authorized to do?
  2. Was Jeromy's action in furtherance of Whataburger's business?
  3. Was Jeromy's action for the purpose of accomplishing Whataburger's goals?

Key Points Considered

  • Clocked In or Out: Jeromy was not clocked in at the time of the accident. This was important because Whataburger employees are only authorized to work when they are clocked in.
  • Specific Instructions: There was no evidence that the manager, Freddie, specifically told Jeromy to drive Marcus to the other location. Freddie only mentioned that Marcus could ask for more hours at another location.
  • Personal Favor: The court found that Jeromy was likely doing a personal favor for Marcus, as they were friends and it was their day off.

Special Mission Doctrine

Marcus also argued that this was a "special mission," meaning a specific errand for Whataburger. For this to apply, the employer must have given specific instructions or required a particular route or means of travel. In this case, Freddie did not give such instructions, and Jeromy was using his own car.

What Should You Do If You're in a Similar Situation?

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re involved in a car accident while performing a task related to your job, there are several steps you should take to protect your rights and understand your employer’s liability:

1. Document Everything

As soon as the accident happens, start documenting everything. This includes:

  • Details of the Accident: Note the date, time, location, and any other relevant details about the accident.
  • Witnesses: Get the names and contact information of any witnesses.
  • Photos: Take pictures of the accident scene, the vehicles involved, and any visible injuries.
  • Statements: Write down what you and others remember about the incident.

2. Report the Accident to Your Employer

Inform your employer about the accident as soon as possible. Provide them with all the details and any documentation you have gathered. This will help establish a record of the incident.

3. Seek Medical Attention

Even if you think your injuries are minor, it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent. Keep all medical records and receipts as they may be crucial for any claims you might need to make.

4. Understand Your Employer’s Policies

Review your employer’s policies regarding work-related accidents. This includes understanding whether you were officially on duty and if the task you were performing was part of your job responsibilities.

5. Consult with a Legal Professional

If you believe your employer may be liable for the accident, it’s wise to consult with a legal professional. They can help you understand your rights and whether you have a valid claim against your employer.

6. Insurance Claims

File any necessary insurance claims. If you were using a personal vehicle, your personal auto insurance might be involved. If you were using a company vehicle, the company’s insurance might cover the accident.

7. Keep Communication Records

Maintain records of all communications with your employer, insurance companies, and any legal professionals. This includes emails, letters, and notes from phone calls.

Why This Matters

Understanding these steps is crucial because it helps ensure you are properly compensated for any injuries or damages. It also clarifies whether your employer has any responsibility for the accident. Knowing your rights and the proper procedures can make a significant difference in the outcome of your situation.

By taking these steps, you can better navigate the complexities of employer liability and protect yourself in the event of a work-related car accident.


The court ruled that Whataburger was not responsible for the accident because Jeromy was not acting within the scope of his employment. He was not clocked in, was not given specific instructions to drive Marcus, and was likely doing a personal favor.

Key Takeaways

  • Employer Liability: Employers are generally not responsible for accidents that happen when employees are off the clock or doing personal favors.
  • Scope of Employment: For an employer to be liable, the employee must be doing something related to their job duties.
  • Special Mission: If an employee is on a special mission for the employer, there must be clear instructions from the employer about the task.

Understanding these points can help you know when an employer might be held responsible for a car accident involving an employee. If you're ever in a similar situation, these factors will be important in determining liability.

Seeking Legal Help

If you find yourself in a situation similar to Marcus and believe your employer might be responsible for a car accident, it’s crucial to seek professional legal advice. A specialized attorney can help you navigate the complexities of employer liability and ensure you understand your rights. For expert guidance, consider consulting a Whataburger injury attorney who is experienced in handling such cases. They can provide you with the necessary support to pursue your claim effectively.