What Employers Need to Know about Being Held Liable for Cell Phone Crashes Involving their Employees
In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. Texting while driving causes over 3,000 deaths and 330,000 injuries every year according to a study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Talking on a cell phone while driving is very dangerous too because our brains are not capable of focusing our full attention on the road while talking on the phone. Overall, drivers are four times as likely to crash their vehicle when using a cell phone while driving. The risk of cell phone crashes needs to be taken seriously by drivers and their employers.
What employers need to know about being held liable for cell phone crashes involving their employees
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), employers are being held liable up to $25 million when their employee crashes while using a cell phone – even if they were on a hands-free device. The reason for this is that an employer may be held legally responsible when their employee’s act negligently if the employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of a crash. Employers should know that “acting within the scope of employment” can and has been defined broadly in claims brought for motor vehicle crashes involving cell phones.
If employees feel pressured by their employers to answer work-related calls or messages while they are driving then they are more likely to do so. Employers who place these expectations on their employees are not only increasing the chances of an accident but they are opening themselves up to legal liability. This risk pertains to all employees, not just commercial drivers or employees who need to drive for sales or service stops. It cannot reasonably be argued that an employer wasn’t aware of the dangers of using a cell phone while driving.
This National Safety Council white paper shows real cases and explains why employers are being held liable for cell phone accidents involving their employees: https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/DistractedDrivingDocuments/NSC-CorpLiability-WP-lr-(1).pdf
What can employers do to protect themselves from employee cell phone crashes?
The best thing that employers can do to protect themselves from employee cell phone crashes is to implement a total ban on employees using their cell phones while they are driving during their work day or doing any company business. Employers protect themselves from liability and their employees from deadly cell phone accidents when they implement a cell phone ban.
According to the NSC, a total employer cell phone ban should include:
- Handheld and hands-free devices
- All employees and managers
- All company vehicles
- All company cell phones
- All work-related communications and any communication on company time – even in a personal vehicle or on a personal cell phone
Employers can use the NSC’s free Cell Phone Policy Kit, available for download at nsc.org/policykit to help create their own cell phone policy or use the free NSC Cell Phone Policy Assessment Tool at nsc.org/policytool to flag safety loopholes in their existing cell phone policies.
Seek the help of a car accident attorney
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!