If I broke my car on the job, do I have to foot the bill?
October 16, 2008 12:07 PM   Subscribe

I broke my car driving to a location, for work. I just got the bill and it's nearly $900 to fix it. What sort of recourse can I take as far as company reimbursement is concerned? If so, how do I approach this discussion?

I'm not usually included on video shoots because it's not my department at the ad agency where I work. This time it was mandatory that I be there, and had to drive myself to the locations.

Long story short I ended up doing a fair amount of damage to my already frail '99 VW Beetle en route to a shoot location. I had to have it towed to the mechanic the next morning as the shoot ended at 3am.

This was a shoot for a non-paying account, so there was no budget to work with nor was there any revenue generated from this project. I wasn't getting any additional pay for my extra hours on the job. It's a small agency, (<15 people.) I don't get paid very much at all. I'm not high up in this company. I've been there 1 1/2 years now.

I've told my bosses how much it will cost to repair my car in order to open the door for them to offer to cover some of the cost of repairs. No one has said anything except, "that sucks."

I'm pretty frustrated as I didn't even want to be at this shoot and now it's going to cost me $900!!!

Does the company have to help me since it happened during a shoot that while work related? Am I crazy to even think about expecting some reimbursement? How else can I look at this situation?
posted by dearest to Work & Money (13 answers total)
Was there something special about the drive to this shoot that made your car die? Or does it just suck in general, and would have broken if you drove anywhere?
posted by smackfu at 12:13 PM on October 16, 2008

I don't see how you have an argument for the company to pay for your car repair simply because you had a breakdown or accident while traveling there.

They company may have made it mandatory for you to be there, but it wasn't mandatory that you take your car, correct?

Is there anything about the shoot itself that caused the damage to the car, or was this damage due to a mechanical breakdown or accident that could have occurred while you were driving anywhere?

If an employee or property of the company damaged your car then you may have a claim.
posted by de void at 12:17 PM on October 16, 2008

Generally speaking (very generally speaking), if you are using your vehicle in the line of work you are correct to ask the business for expenses. If you are using your vehicle to arrive at a location where you will then be working, you're SOL.

Many many other factors may be at play. Never hurts to ask.
posted by Aquaman at 12:19 PM on October 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

First, are you hourly or salaried? That can make a difference.

Also, if you're hourly, and you didn't get paid for extra time worked, then that's a problem. If you're salaried, then that's pretty much par the course.

Next, what exactly happened to your car? Were you just driving and something bad happened, or did you get into a collision, or what?

There's not really enough information here to make a call either way at this point.
posted by Verdandi at 12:19 PM on October 16, 2008

Response by poster: I drove over some particularly nasty railroad tracks in a part of town that I wouldn't have been in if it wasn't for the shoot. The tracks cracked my oil pan and did something or other to the engine (the words rod bearings and pistons came up? I don't know anything about cars really.)
posted by dearest at 12:19 PM on October 16, 2008

If you weren't paid for the extra time, I'm guessing you weren't paid mileage for driving to the shoot?
posted by curie at 12:25 PM on October 16, 2008

Response by poster: Sorry, I think my frustration may have caused me to leave out important details:
I am a salary employee, and I did not receive mileage reimbursement to drive to the shoot. Also, I'm not sure how I would have been able to go to the shoot with out using my car. There is no real public transportation here.
posted by dearest at 12:34 PM on October 16, 2008

Best answer: Transportation to and from work is pretty much the employee's responsibility in most situations. Just like housing and food.

Another way to look at it is like this: you earn money at your job, and you use it to purchase shelter, food and transportation. But your employer is not responsible for what you do with your money, or whether you choose to skimp on one or more of life's necessities.

Furthermore, it sounds like you not only neglected needed repairs, but that you drove your car over a railroad track in such a way that it was further damaged. How you drove over a railroad track is also not the responsibility of your employer.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:48 PM on October 16, 2008

There's no way in the world I'd expect my employer to pay for me banging my oil pan on railroad tracks, or any other vehicle related expenses unless it was a result of something specifically job related (ie, someone dropped a camera on your car or something). There's no way you can ask for $900 and not sound like you're whining. :(

In the future, I'd negotiate to have your employer pay for your transportation up front, whatever the federal reimbursement rate is ($.55/mile?).
posted by paanta at 12:54 PM on October 16, 2008

Not sure why work should pay for your damage - at the end of the day, if you had slowed down to cross (possibly less chance of damaging your car?) or decided the tracks could not be crossed safely and found an alternative route (even if that had made you late) or (if there is no alternative route) phoned up and said you're stuck and can't get there what would have happened? Nothing I imagine. You may have had to explain yourself the next time you spoke to your boss but to go over those tracks was your choice.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:55 PM on October 16, 2008

Yeah I'm gonna have to agree with M.C. Lo-Carb and koahiatamadi. You were driving your car and you determined it would be safe to cross the tracks when it clearly wasn't. That has nothing to do with your employer. You should pay the bill yourself.

posted by flyingcowofdoom at 1:58 PM on October 16, 2008

Best answer: If getting to the location required driving off the road and that's where the damage occurred than maybe, maybe, there might be a reason that work should pay for it.

If you're driving on the city street and the condition of the driving surface causes damage to the car, you've got a complaint with the city.
posted by winston at 3:34 PM on October 16, 2008

Best answer: Something very similar happened to our PA- she was out picking up a tape from another station in town, in her own car, and bottomed out on a dip and cracked her oilpan. Because a company car was not available to her at the time, the company insurance reimbursed her own insurance (she still had to pay her deductible). I get the sense it is all dependent on what kind of coverage both you and your employer has.

Talk to HR, and find out how your company's insurance works. Also talk to your own insurance company, if you have comprehensive coverage.
posted by blackunicorn at 4:38 PM on October 16, 2008

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