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Vicarious Liability Makes Firms Liable for D.D.

Juries increasingly go after companies for Distracted Driving.

by on Jan.25, 2010

All talk and no regulatory action from the "safety" agency that is part of DOT.

Since 2001, a growing number of jury awards have illustrated that businesses could be forced to pay the price for employees’ distracted driving, according to risk prevention specialists at Zurich Services Corporation, a leading property and casualty insurance provider globally and in North America,.

Employers could be held “vicariously liable” if they permit employees to use particular technologies while driving. This could include operating a company-owned cellular phone or Blackberry, laptop, or MP3 player.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is part of the Department of Transportation,  estimates that 6,000 people were killed last year in distracted driving incidents, and hundreds of thousands more were seriously injured. Yet, the government agency charged with vehicle safety has not taken a firm stand against the practice, critics say, due to the lobbying influence of automobile, cell phone and electronics companies.

“Not only have businesses put people at risk over their laissez-faire attitude towards technology usage in their workplaces—in most cases, they encourage it if it means increased productivity,” says Zurich’s Jim Noble, Line of Business Director – Motor Fleet. “But companies themselves—large and small—are now threatened if suddenly they’re faced with a hefty lawsuit caused by an employee’s negligence with an electronic device.”

Insurance companies could provide the lobbying muscle, or dollars, needed to reverse the “do nothing attitude of the federal government. At the very least, they provide economic incentives for businesses and consumers to stop life endangering behaviors.