The number one cause of workplace injuries and deaths is vehicle accidents and other transportation incidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 39% of all work-related fatalities are caused by vehicle accidents.
Back in the day, about 20 years ago, the biggest cause of on-the-job accidents involving a motor vehicle was fatigue or driving while drowsy, and substance abuse. Now, thanks to the proliferation of high-tech gadgets that are so portable that they’ve found their way into our cars and trucks, the National Safety Council estimates that at least 24% of vehicle accidents are caused by electronic devices.
For business owners, this means a huge financial and legal risk, mainly due to employees making calls or texting on their cell phones while driving a company vehicle, or operating a piece of company equipment. What was once thought to be a fantastically efficient advantage, having an employee use their phones while on the job has now turned into extremely risky business.
As auto accident attorneys, we see the dismal outcomes of employees who have caused serious accidents while on the job all the time. Large and small companies in almost every type of business are faced with huge increases in worker’s compensation costs, as well as significant financial losses caused by losing personal injury cases after an employee hurts or even kills someone else while on company time.
It should come as no surprise that distracted driving is at the top of today’s headlines. With Florida just recently passing a law that makes it illegal to text while behind the wheel, it is a real hot topic that is still evolving through public opinion, and in the Florida legislature. The new Florida law makes texting while driving a “secondary offense”, which means you would have to be pulled over for some other infraction first, in order to be cited. While some in Florida feel this is a good start to reduce the number of distracted driving accidents, there is still strong sentiment that there is a long way to go.
There have been personal injury cases won when a variety of circumstances have been proven in court – all of them costing business owners some serious money:
- Employees using a company phone in a company car, making a personal call
- Employees using a personal phone in a company car, making either a personal or business-related call
- Employees in their personal vehicle, using their personal phone to make a business-related call
As you can imagine, the possibilities for huge exposure to risk for business owners are almost limitless. And, even when an employer has testified that they have a strict “no cell phone while driving policy”, substantial monetary awards have been awarded when it has been proven in court that those policies were not adequately enforced.
Here are some things a business owner or operator can do to limit their liability and reduce the risk of an employee causing an on-the-job accident:
- Ban all electronic devices – including handheld and hands-free – while driving
- Ensure that this mandate applies to ALL company employees
- Apply the ban unilaterally, to include all company owned or leased vehicles
- Ban ALL company communications, whether an employee is in a company or personal vehicle or on their personal phone, when they are driving
As a responsible business owner, now is the time to take a hard look at your employee communications policies. You need to do everything you can to limit your exposure to a personal injury lawsuit that could end up putting you out of business.
Our attorneys at Goldberg, Racila, D’Alessandro & Noone have extensive knowledge and experience in personal injury cases and Florida laws pertaining to the responsibilities of business owners and distracted driving motor vehicle accidents.