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IS EMPLOYER LIABLE WHEN DISTRACTED WORKER CAUSES CAR CRASH?

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals 660,000 drivers were using a cell phone at any given daylight moment during the year its survey was taken – 2011

Texting while driving in California is against the law. It also remains one of the motor vehicle accident causes that continues to be on the rise. More and more states are passing laws dealing with distracted driving; however, statistics reveal 80 percent of crashes are caused by driver inattention. The biggest source of this is proving to be cellphone use. In fact, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals 660,000 drivers were using a cell phone at any given daylight moment during the year its survey was taken – 2011. By now, these numbers have likely increased, even though states continue to enact laws prohibiting hand-held use of mobile devices.

Many of these drivers are on-the-job. Most people either are themselves or know of someone who spends much of the workday in a car or commercial vehicle. It’s the way of the modern world. Regardless of the many warnings from government, insurance companies, and safety organizations, drivers continue to use electronic devices. Many believe they are good at multi-tasking. Some likely feel they have no choice if they are to complete job-related tasks as expected. Whatever the reason may be, it is a driver’s choice to answer a call or respond to a text.

The answer to whether or not an employer is liable for an employee-caused accident is relative to each individual circumstance. If the employee’s actions are in the scope of employment, such as a driver making deliveries, the employer can be held liable. It’s a bit more ambiguous when the situation involves commuting to or from work or using company equipment on personal time. However, employers can be held liable in those instances as well. Employers can also be held liable if a distracted driver has been insufficiently trained in safety requirements or isn’t properly supervised when operating a vehicle as part of his or her job.

Proving employer liability can come down to California law carefully applied to a well-investigated set of circumstances. An owner of a vehicle can be held accountable when, with implied or express permission to use it, an operator is found to be negligent due to distracted driving.

Source: United States Department of Transportation, “NHTSA Survey Finds 660,000 Drivers Using Cell Phones or Manipulating Electronic Devices While Driving At Any Given Daylight Moment” accessed Jan. 29, 2015

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