It is easy to place all the blame of a car accident on the driver of the other vehicle, but this might not necessarily always be the correct decision, especially if that driver was on-the-clock at the time of the collision. Employees that need to drive as part of their job duties could potentially become distracted by those same duties, resulting in a crash. When this happens, the employer could possibly become partially liable.
Actions That Increase Employer Liability
Just because a company driver is technically at work when a car accident occurs does not automatically put liability onto the employer. After all, the only person who can ultimately drive a vehicle responsibly is the driver. However, there are many behaviors, oversights, or actions that can increase the employer's liability in a crash.
An employer could assume liability if it is found responsible for:
- Calling driver: Perhaps the number one reason for distracted driving accidents involving an employee is the employer calling that driver, knowing that he or she is behind the wheel. A manager might try to call for a quick check up, or a dispatcher could call to assign a new task to a field agent, like a plumber or other contractor. In any situation, it puts the driver and others in a dangerous situation.
- Inadequate training: Companies that employ drivers need to ensure that they all know how to safely operate their vehicle, whether it is a large commercial truck, some sort of farm equipment, or just a personal car used for company deliveries like a pizza courier. Training courses should be implemented shortly after hiring and kept up with routine driver's tests. Most importantly, the training must be clear that becoming distracted while on the road is wholly unacceptable.
- Unreasonable hours: Many company drivers are tasked with demanding schedules that put them behind the wheel for hours at a time. It is not uncommon for a trucker, for example, to drive for 11+ hours a day. If an employer does not make considerations for their rest and exhaustion, it could be partially liable for a crash caused by tiredness, or distraction that is more likely occur due to being fatigued.
How Employers Can Decrease Liability
Employers do have ways to distance themselves from liability in employee distracted driving accidents, though. Namely, they can use employment contracts that outline clearly that distracted driving behaviors like texting or eating while driving are completely prohibited. Companies can also keep careful track of driver schedules and never reach out to them when they are on the road. Supplying company drivers with a useful driver safety manual, and storing such a manual in the cabs of each car, is another way to reduce employer liability.
Legal Assistance for Your Distracted Driving Accident Claim
When you need to file a car accident claim after being struck by a distracted employee, assigning correct liability is more important than it might seem. If you fail to identify all the liable parties – the driver and the employer – you may experience a costly delay in your case, or jeopardize the validity of your argument. Mulvey, Cornell & Mulvey and our New Hampshire personal injury attorneys can be retained to help you with your claim and pinpoint the sources of liability. With more than 30 years of experience under our belts, we have become a go-to name in injury representation and litigation in the state.