Headed into the holiday season, many employees are scrambling to get as much work done as possible before taking some vacation. While employers surely appreciate their workers’ efforts to answer their phones and emails as quickly as possible, that can be a liability for a company if the employee does so while driving.

In the past, courts have ruled that employers can be held liable for their workers’ distracted driving if it is within the course and scope of their employment. Here is what employers need to know about liability when their employees get behind the wheel.

When Is an Employer Liable for Distracted Driving?

Companies are liable for the driving of employees who operate a company vehicle as part of their job—think couriers and truck drivers. But, there are also plenty of less obvious instances in which an employer might be responsible for distracted driving. Here are a few examples:

  • Company cars. If employees drive company cars, then the employer can be held liable for distracted driving incidents, even if the employee is driving while off duty.
  • Work-related distractions. If an employee is driving his or her own vehicle, but becomes distracted by answering a work-related call or email and causes an accident, the company can be held liable.
  • Company cell phones. In rare cases, an employer can be held liable for an employee using a company cell phone for a personal call. This is unlikely, but possible.

The Costs

Distracted driving can greatly cost employers. Research shows that property damage from on-the-job transportation incidents typically costs companies $24,500 per crash. Personal injury to the employee and to third parties typically runs in the $150,000 range, while fatalities can cost companies millions. Fortunately, these crashes are preventable, and employers can act to keep their employees and their wallets safe.

Preventing Distracted Driving Liability

The best way to avoid liability for a distracted driving accident is to prevent the accident in the first place. Companies that give their employees vehicles need to hold regular training on distracted driving. Employees with company cars should also be required to adhere to a distracted driving policy.

These policies should consider state laws that may prohibit drivers from using their phones or require all cell phone use to be hands-free. Employers should provide the proper equipment for employees to use their cell phone hands-free or prohibit cell phone use altogether.

Even when employees do not drive company vehicles, companies should have cell phone policies that prohibit taking work-related calls or answering emails while driving.

Creating a Policy

LBMC Employment Partners can help your company create driving and cell phone policies that keep your employees safe and protect your company from liability. To learn more about how LBMC EP can help your business deal with distracted drivers, contact us today.