CELL PHONES: EXPANDING EMPLOYER LIABILITY

CELL PHONES: EXPANDING EMPLOYER LIABILITY

 

Added company liability with employee phone while driving in Mesa, Arizona

According to some scientific journals, drivers who use cell phones have slower reaction times and more accidents than drivers who are legally drunk. Recent court decisions may indicate an emerging trend in the law to impose liability on employers for injuries caused by their employees while using cell phones to conduct business while driving. As a recent example of cell phones and employer liability, an employer settled a personal injury lawsuit for $5.2 million dollars with a woman who lost her arm after she was rear ended by an employee who was speeding and talking on a company issued cell phone at the time of the accident.

This is significant because traditionally the law did not make an employer responsible for the employee’s accidents driving to and from work or to and from lunch. This period of time was not typically time the employee was acting for the benefit of the employer, rather it was the employee’s own time. However, with the greater capacity and technology of today’s “smart” phones, business is and can be conducted in your car while using your phone (although not wise to do so). If the employer provides the phone and encourages its employees to use the phone for work, even outside of regular business hours, this may expose the employer to liability for the employee’s Arizona accidents, expanding vicarious liability.

In addition, employers may be directly negligent and legally responsible for an employee’s accident if the employer encourages cell phone use for work-related purposes while driving; the employer knew, or should have known, that its employees were using their cell phones while driving for work activities; and the employer did not adopt and implement policies restricting or banning the use of employer-sponsored cell phones for work purposes while driving.

If you have employees and provide them with company issued phones, you should consider adopting and implementing policies expressly prohibiting use of cell phones for work related purposes while driving. I represent individuals and businesses in all types of business litigation claims in state and federal court. If a lawsuit is brought against you or your business, you should obtain legal representation and notify your insurance carrier immediately. However, if you wish to take a preventive approach, I can help you steer around these legal risks. . In either case, if you would like a consultation, give me a call.