A car crash is a car crash, whether the cars involved are company vehicles or privately owned, but these two types of accidents can have important legal differences.

In most personal injury cases involving auto accidents, the key legal concept is negligence. Drivers owe a duty of care to others to avoid the risk of causing an accident. When they breach this duty, and cause an accident as a result, they can be held liable for the damages they caused to others. These damages can include medical expenses, lost income and more.

Legally, the question of negligence is essentially the same whether the negligent driver was behind the wheel of a private car or the company car. The difference between the two situations lies in who may be held liable.

Typically, the injured party may hold the driver’s employer liable for damages. This is due to a legal principle known as “respondeat superior,” or “vicarious liability.” This principle holds that employers are responsible for negligent acts committed by their employees in the course of their employment.

For example, imagine Benny is driving his company’s pickup truck from one job site to another when he runs a red light and collides with Carla’s SUV. Carla is injured and suffers $80,000 in damages. Because Benny negligently caused the accident while in the course of his job duties, Carla may hold his employer liable for her damages.

Things can get trickier in cases where the negligent driver was not performing their job duties at the time of the accident. For instance, in the example above, imagine that Benny was not going to another job site, but was instead going to a friend’s house at the time of the accident. In this case, his employer might argue that it should not be held liable for Benny’s negligence.

Every personal injury case is different. Injured people and their families should talk to an experienced attorney about how the law may apply to the facts of their case.