On the heels of a stringent new set of regulations by the U.S. Department of Transportation restricting the use of hand-held cellular phones by commercial motor vehicle drivers that can result in fines for both drivers and their employers, it is more important than ever that employers be aware of the potential liability they face for employees’ actions behind the wheel. Remember these rules if you have employees who drive any vehicle for work:
Employers are on the Hook With Vicarious Liability:
- Business owners are generally responsible for injuries to third-parties caused by employees acting within the scope of their employment – regardless of whether the employee is driving a company-owned vehicle or a personal vehicle.
- Within the scope of employment means you or your manager authorized the employee to do it, or it is necessary for the employee to carry out his or her job function.
- The business owner does not have to know what the employee is doing when they are involved in an incident, as long as the activity is related to the employment.
- Exception: when an employee commits an intentional bad act, or when they deviate so far from work-related activities that it ends the employment relationship.
- Business owners may also be held liable if they allow an employee whom they know to be unlicensed, incompetent, or unqualified to drive a company car.
- Knowledge of incompetence may be knowledge that the employee had been drinking alcohol, or a history of reckless driving by the employee.
- A business owner will be liable if they knew or had reason to know that an employee was incompetent to drive.
Be sure that your employees are aware of the relevant laws and practice safe driving habits:
- Ban all employees from texting or talking on the phone while driving for work.
- Encourage employees to always pull over before using a cell phone in a car.
- Limit or altogether end any work-related driving by employees with poor driving records.
- Be sure to update your company’s policy and any employee handbooks to reflect the most recent regulations in your area regarding distracted driving.
Learn more about the new CMV regulations .
For further tips, visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s distracted driving website.