Distracted Driving can cost you and your employer

March 02, 2012

Talking on a cell phone for company business is a common event for many employees. However, an employer may be liable if an employee causes an accident while on the phone in the scope of doing business. A personal injury victim may be able to file suit against a driver/employee involved in a cell phone related accident and their company in the certain circumstances.
A few examples include:

  • The phone call pertained to business
  • The driver was performing company business on his or her cell phone while driving.
  • The accident happened because the driver was distracted by the phone call
  • The company provided the cell phone used by the driver/employee

A few prominent examples of personal injury suits involving cell phone use of employees while driving include the following:

  • A salesperson for lumber wholesaler Dyke Industries was driving and using a   cell phone at the time of an accident that left a 78-year old woman severely disabled. The salesperson denied using the cell phone at the time of the accident; however, phone records showed otherwise. A jury held the employer, liable and awarded a $20.9 million verdict, that later settled for $16.2 million.
  • An employee for International Paper rear-ended another driver, while on her company cell phone. The plaintiff lost her arm because of the car accident. International Paper settled the personal injury suit for $5 million.
  • A teacher for the state of Hawaii struck a pedestrian tourist while talking on the cell phone. The plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury because of the car accident. The personal injury lawsuit settled for $1.5 million.
  • A  stockbroker for investment banking firm Smith Barney, talking on the cell    phone to a potential client, struck and killed a motorcyclist. Although the stockbroker was using his personal cell phone, the plaintiff argued that Smith Barney should be liable for not providing proper training to employees on cell phone safety issues. The wrongful death suit settled for $500,000.

Research shows that driving is already the most dangerous part of an employee’s job. More employee deaths and injuries occur while driving than any other activity. Adding cell phone distraction to the situation only compounds the problem.

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