California Department of Transportation
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Clark Paulsen, Division Chief

Vehicle Accidents

References: California Code of Regulations (CCR), Administration, Title 2, Sections 599.630 and 599.631, SAM 0753, 0757, 758, 2430, and 2440, Caltrans Safety Manual Section 18, and Department of General Services Management Memo 2003-03.


Department of General Services Management Memo 2003-03 requires all motor vehicle accidents involving any vehicle used for state business be reported within 48 hours to the Office of Risk and Insurance Management (ORIM). Chapter 18 of the Caltrans Safety Manual provides supervisors and employees with detailed instructions for the reporting and documentation of motor vehicle accidents.

For additional information, see the Department of General Services, Office of Risk and Insurance Management's publication, "Ok, You've Had a Motor Vehicle Accident, So Now What Happens?". This publication contains some of the most frequently asked questions that arise after a motor vehicle accident occurs.

Commercial Rental Vehicles

State employees shall not purchase the loss or collision damage waiver at the time of rental. In the event of an accident, employees will not be responsible for loss or damages to the vehicle except as stated in the contract language below.

Notwithstanding the provisions of any vehicle rental agreement executed by the state employee, the contract rental agency assumes and shall bear the entire risk of loss of, or damage to, the rented vehicle (including costs of towing, administrative costs, loss of use and replacement) from any and every cause whatsoever. This includes without limitation, casualty, collision, fire, upset, malicious mischief, vandalism, falling objects, overhead damage, and glass disappearance, except where the loss or damage is caused by one or more of the following:

  • Willful or wanton misconduct on the part of the driver.
  • Obtaining the vehicle through fraud or misrepresentation.
  • Operation of the vehicle by a driver who contributed to the vehicle damage while such person was (and has been adjudged by the courts to have been) under the influence of alcohol or any drug.
  • Use of the vehicle for any intentionally illegal purpose.
  • Use or permitting the vehicle to carry unauthorized passengers or property for hire.
  • Operations of the vehicle in a test, race, or contest.
  • Operation of the vehicle by a person other than an authorized driver.
  • Operation of the vehicle outside the continental United States except where such use is specifically authorized by the rental agreement at the time of rental. State policy requires:
    • The appropriate state agency approves the travel.
    • The rental car company is notified regarding the trip.
    • DGS, ORIM-approved insurance is obtained for the trip.
  • Operation of the vehicle off paved, graded, or maintained roads or driveways, except when the rental agency has agreed to this in writing beforehand and the vehicle was properly designed for such use.

The rental agency will submit any bills due to the coverage exceptions detailed above directly to Caltrans. If Caltrans denies liability on the basis that the employee was not operating the vehicle within the scope of employment at the time of the loss, the rental agency will be instructed to pursue compensation from the employee. Claims for damage to a vehicle will not include amounts for loss of use.

In the event of an accident or if repairs become necessary, the employee should immediately notify the rental agency for assistance and instructions.

State Vehicles

TEC reimbursement for accident damage repairs to state vehicles is prohibited.

If a state vehicle is involved in an accident and the state employee driver is at fault, ORIM adjusters will evaluate claims to determine the state's liability and negotiate settlements. ORIM will provide vehicle damage recovery services when the other driver is at fault.

Privately-Owned Vehicles

The current mileage reimbursement rate for privately-owned vehicles includes the cost of maintaining liability insurance at the minimum amount prescribed by law and collision insurance sufficient to cover the reasonable value of the vehicle less a standard deductible.

If a privately-owned vehicle operated by an employee on official state business is damaged by collision or is otherwise accidentally damaged, reimbursement for repair will be allowed as follows:

  • Represented employees: Reimbursement for reasonable repair, limited to the actual loss and those costs not recoverable directly from or through insurance coverage of any party involved in the accident.
  • Non-represented employees: Reimbursement for repair or the deductible, to a maximum of $500.

Note: The Department of Human Resources (CalHR) has determined that private vehicle wear and tear, tire damage, tire blowouts, vehicle breakdown, cracked windshields, damage caused by vandalism or theft of an employee's privately owned vehicle, etc. is NOT a State expense.

Reimbursement Claims

Reimbursement for motor vehicle accidents is limited to claims for privately-owned vehicles.

Employee's responsibilities when submitting a claim:

Before submitting a travel expense claim (TEC) for reimbursement, an employee must attempt to recover damages through insurance coverage.

Reimbursement for repairs to privately-owned vehicles may be made for accident damage when the following conditions are present:

  • The damage occurred while the vehicle was used on official state business by permission or authorization of the employing agency.
  • The vehicle was damaged through no fault of the employee.
  • The amount claimed is an actual loss to the employee, and is not recoverable directly from or through the insurance coverage of any party involved in the accident.
  • The loss claimed does not result from a decision of the state employee not to maintain collision coverage.

The claim is processed in accordance with the procedures prescribed by the Department of General Services, Office of Risk and Insurance Management and/or the Department of Human Resources (CalHR).


The supervisor approving the TEC must ensure the following:

  • The vehicle was being operated on official state business and that the accident occurred through no fault of the employee.
  • The employee has a current "Authorization to Use Privately-Owned Vehicle on State Business", Form FA0205A, on file.
  • The employee has presented sufficient evidence that the repair expense has not been paid by insurance.
  • Reimbursement is authorized only for the deductible or least expensive of three (3) competitive estimates for repair, whichever is less.
  • The claim is not the result of the employee's, the officer's, or the agent's decision not to maintain collision coverage.

The TEC must include the following:

  • A copy of the "Vehicle Accident Report", Form Std. 270, signed by the employee's supervisor.
  • Three (3) estimates of repair costs. The least expensive of the three (3) estimates will be used to determine the actual reimbursement.
  • A paid invoice detailing repairs and replacement parts.
  • Proof of insurance deductible from the employee's insurance company.

The following statement in the "purpose" section of the TEC, "I hereby certify that this expense was incurred by me as a result of damage to my privately-owned vehicle. This expense is not reimbursable through the insurance coverage of any of the parties involved in the accident."

Reimbursement is made from the employee's program travel funds using Agency Object Code 001.

Claims filed because of a decision not to maintain collision coverage may be filed with the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.

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