Summer Road Risks: Employer Liability for Employee Driving Safety - American Society of Employers - Susan Chance

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Summer Road Risks: Employer Liability for Employee Driving Safety

Summer is almost here, and orange barrel mating season is well underway. The nice weather also brings more motorcycles, cars pulling boats, and large recreational vehicles on the roads. In other words, there are a lot more hazards on the roads.

Why should an employer care about this? Well, if you have any employee who gets behind the wheel of a car for work purposes, you absolutely should care. It does not matter if you have staff that regularly travel to meetings or client sites, or employees who occasionally pick up lunch for meetings, or run other small work-related errands. If the employee has an accident, or my favorite new phrase, an avoidable crash while on company business, the employer could be liable for damages. It does not matter if the person is driving their own car, a company car, a rental, or even their co-worker’s vehicle. What matters is:

  • Was the person driving negligently?
  • Are they an employee of the company and not an independent contractor?
  • Were they “acting within the scope of their employment?”
  • Were they “doing something to benefit the employer?”

Perhaps your employee was speeding, or using their phone while driving? If their bad behavior results in personal or property damage, or both, it could cost you as the employer. While an employer generally does not have to worry about how their employees get to and from work, if they do any company business along the way, such as picking up coffee and bagels for a morning meeting or stopping to pick up office supplies, then that driving can be “something to benefit the employer.”

It is surprising how often employers don’t think to run driving checks on employees, especially when the employees only drive occasionally for work purposes. As an employer you have certain legal obligations, and you may have contractual obligations from your insurance company.

Let’s say Bob Jones is heading to a client meeting and is involved in an avoidable crash. It turns out he has a long list of infractions on his driving record that shows he is not a safe driver, but the employer did not run a driving check on him before allowing him to drive for company business. The employer was negligent in this case because it should have known about Bob’s driving history.

If you don’t have a policy in place for checking the driving records of all employees who drive for company business regardless of how often then make sure you put one in place. Check your insurance contract for any requirements which could include an initial check and ongoing checks for driving records. After all, just because a person had a clean record when they started working for you doesn’t mean it will stay clean.

On another note, even if a person has a bad driving record that does not mean they can’t do the job for which they were hired. Make sure you review the job requirements, and that driving is truly required. Perhaps the person can carpool with other employees to client or meeting sites. Maybe they use a car service if they don’t have a current license. Some larger companies offer shuttle services between their sites. Driving is not necessarily a requirement for an engineer, designer, etc. to complete the requirements of their projects. Make sure your policy takes those things into consideration.

 

Sources: nolo.com; eliaandponto.com

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