Cell phone use is becoming an integral part of everyday life for many Americans. The increase in car accidents caused by drivers who were texting, talking or otherwise distracted by their phones is a sure sign of that fact. A new wrinkle in the lawsuits against distracted drivers who injure or kill others with their actions is seeing attorneys go after compensation from employers who know or rely on employees who use cell phones while driving. Companies have long been liable for certain acts committed by their employees. This is just the latest step in making sure that all responsible parties are held accountable for the harm done by distracted driving.
The cases involve more than just traveling sales people or commercial drivers. Company issued phones, company issues cars and anyone who is making a business call, even in their private cars on their personal phones, could implicate their employers with distracted driving. The lawsuits go after companies who are aware of a dangerous situation and are doing nothing to prevent it.
Several companies, including UPS, Chevron, DuPont and Time Warner have banned employee cell phone use while driving. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all companies make such a ban and many companies have begun to follow suit. The benefits in productivity gained by having employees use commuting time to make business calls and complete other company business by phone may now be outweighed by the potential liability exposure if an accident does occur.
Source: The Journal Gazette, “Cell use at wheel creates liability,” 27 May 2012