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Studies show that cell phones and driving do not mix; they may cost employers

Recent reports from the National Safety Council estimate that 200,000 crashes yearly are caused by drivers who are texting while driving. Further, a recent study conducted by Car and Driver Magazine concluded that texting and driving was more hazardous than drinking and driving – with texting drivers having three to four times slower in their response rates than drivers under the influence! More than ever, Americans are using their cell phones to conduct business while driving – receiving and sending documents, e-mailing, text messaging, even researching! But, this convenience and always “on the clock” mentality comes with a price to all business owners – distracted drivers who hurt or cause the wrongful death of another expose their employer to possible personal injury liabilities for their mistake.

One example of such a liability came in 2004 when one law firm ultimately settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of a teenage victim who was killed while a Virginia attorney/driver was using her cell phone to conduct firm business. Employers may be liable for personal injury damages under the following theories of liability. First, respondeat superior holds that employees driving to and from work, to and from lunch, and otherwise not engaged in traditional business-related activities was not acting in the course of business. But, as addressed above the scope of “course of business” is changing drastically with the increased availability and use of cell phones. Second, direct negligence comes into play because an employer has a duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of the public whenever its employees are acting within the course and scope of their employments.

Read more about the cost of unsafe driving to employers at Miami Herald.