Most states have statutes—such as negligent entrustment or vicarious liability—that makes it so companies can be held liable for their employees' actions. One area that can be particularly problematic for employers is employee use of company vehicles. A mistake on your worker's part while on the road could end up costing you thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Unfortunately, companies contribute to their woes by failing to take proper precautions when hiring workers. Here are two things that can cost you a lot of money if you fail to do them.
Not Performing Ongoing Background/DMV Checks
A lot of companies these days do background and DMV checks on employees before handing over the keys to the company vehicles. Where they get in trouble is they don't continue checking up on employees. A person could have a clean record when they get hired, but get into trouble in the years afterwards.
The issue is that courts don't just consider what you actually knew about the employee at the time he or she got into an accident but also what you should have known. If doing periodic background and DMV checks during the person's employment would have uncovered issues indicating the employee couldn't be trusted to drive safely (e.g. DUI convictions), then you could still be held responsible for the employee's conduct because you failed to take the reasonable precaution of keeping tabs on the person's driving habits.
Failing to Add Cell Phone Use to Driver's Conduct Policy
According to a study conducted by the National Safety Council, 28 percent of accidents in 2010 were caused by cell phone usage (e.g. talking or texting). Another thing that can get employers into trouble is not having a clear policy regarding cell phone usage while driving and enforcing that policy with disciplinary action when necessary.
It's not enough to have a policy, though. These days, you must also actively train drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. Coca-Cola learned this lesson the hard way. In 2012, the company lost a $21 million lawsuit to a plaintiff who was struck by one of its drivers who had been talking on a cell phone at the time the accident occurred. The company lost, in part, because its policy regarding phone usage was "vague and ambiguous" and the driver claimed she didn't know the risks of driving while talking.
Avoiding being held liable for accidents caused by employees will take some effort. However, it's worth it to avoid having to pay millions of dollars for an employee's bad conduct. For more information about this issue or help with a case, contact an attorney, like one from Bennett & Sharp PLLC.