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August 08, 2010
Commuting and Liability Risk

In a BLR webinar entitled "Mileage/Commuting Expenses: How to Avoid Big Mistakes With These Employee Expenses," Mark E. Tabakman, Esq., partner in the nationwide law firm Fox Rothschild, LLP and Stacy Wade, Ph.D., CPA, assistant professor of accounting at Western Kentucky University, explained the policies regarding commuting and a company's liability:

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  • Ordinarily, commuting does not create company liability simply because the employer promotes it.
  • On the other hand, when cars, vans, or minibuses are furnished by the organization, the employer must be careful to protect itself against liability claims. Some states now provide shield laws for such liability. Employers should consult their insurance carrier and/or legal counsel before providing or sponsoring any transportation programs.
  • Most private automobile insurance policies prohibit the use of the car for hire, but if carpooling drivers alternate and are not reimbursed above operating costs, the car is not considered to be used for hire.
  • In most cases, when one person does all the driving, his or her insurance will still be valid if the reimbursement received from passengers is reasonably related to the cost of operation. Employees planning to carry riders regularly at more than a nominal rate should check with their insurance company before taking the wheel even once.
  • In almost all states, workers' compensation does not apply to commuting injuries.

Mark E. Tabakman, Esq., is a partner in the nationwide law firm Fox Rothschild, LLP (www.wagehourlaw.foxrothschild.com). He advises clients throughout the country on all aspects of labor relations and employment law, as well as the development of corporate employment policies. Stacy Wade, Ph.D., CPA, is assistant professor of accounting at Western Kentucky University (www.wku.edu). She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in financial accounting and taxation.

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