While you’ve created a booming business, you may face a major financial challenges if you’re faced with a liability lawsuit involving your company or fleet vehicles.
“When your business owns motor vehicles that are used by your employees and they get involved in a car accident, there are circumstances under which you may bear the cost for the injuries that occur to the other parties involved in the incident,” says Sean M. Cleary, a Miami car accident lawyer.
When an employee has an on-the-job crash that results in their injury, the average costs for an employer in medical care, plus legal expenses and lost productivity amounts to $74,000, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). When you add liability associated with the physical injury of other parties involved, you could be looking at millions of dollars in compensation.
Typical uses of company vehicles (e.g., passenger cars, minivans, limousines, specialty vans, catering trucks, pickups, SUVs, or tractor-trailers) provide employees with work-related transportation, transport non-employee passengers, carry work equipment, or haul goods.
However, the workday or commute to and from work are also times when many motor vehicle crashes occur. Usually, fault in any car accident is found with the driver who acts carelessly or recklessly behind the wheel. However, there are circumstances under which injured individuals may be able to seek monetary recovery from you, the company that employs the driver.
If an employee was using your company car, you may be liable for their actions during their scope of employment, as they performed work-related tasks at the time of the accident. This includes driving for work purposes.
How To Mitigate Employer Liability For Accidents Involving Company or Fleet Vehicles
Here are a few things every entrepreneur who owns company and fleet vehicles can do to protect their business:
1. Keep your company vehicles work ready
Sometimes, commercial accidents can be caused by a defect in the vehicle, so it may not be as simple as an employee not paying attention and causing an accident.
As a business owner, it’s your job to ensure the cars driven by your employees are work ready. Tires must not present signs of wear, safety equipment should be in place, and vehicles should be in good working order.
Before employees use company vehicles, check to see if they’re up to manufacturer standards. Also, review and consider all safety features of the vehicles made available to drivers.
Company vehicles should be on a regular preventive maintenance schedule. A mechanic should thoroughly inspect the vehicles at least once a year to make sure everything works properly. If you’re negligent as a business owner, you may be held responsible for any harm or losses caused by your inability to maintain a safe commercial vehicle.
2. Secure materials for transport
When company or fleet vehicles are transporting tools, equipment, and objects, these materials should be secured to prevent unsafe movement. Loose or unsecured objects such as bricks or tools and tow trailers that become unhitched are common types of accident-causing road debris. Furthermore, you could be held liable for the failed security of the cargo that caused an accident.
3. Train your employees and drivers
It’s easy to lose sight of the consequences of bad driving habits. To reduce the risk of accidents, provide employees with continuous safety training and communication. Set guidelines and rules for everyone who uses company vehicles. Even experienced drivers can benefit from periodic reminders of safe driving practices and training.
4. Promote safe driving practices
Set a clear expectation for safe driving practices as a part of your company culture. You can greatly reduce liability risk when you instruct your employees in basic safe driving practices as part of their day-to-day activities and then reward safety-conscious behavior.
Your driver safety program needs to work to keep the driver, as well as those with whom they share the road, safe. If necessary, you can work in the direction of improving behavior, changing attitudes, and increasing skills to build a safety culture.
5. Avoid calling employees when they’re driving
Set the example. When you’ve enforced a company driving policy that discourages the use of mobile devices while driving, make it easier for your employees to follow the guidelines and conduct their jobs safely.
If you know employees are driving, don’t call or text until they’re off the road. Evidently, texting, talking, and other distractions while driving can result in serious accidents.
Keep your drivers safe and mitigate liability risks
“When it comes to driving at work, liability for car accidents works both ways. Yes, your employees are responsible for their behavior behind the wheel. But as an employer – under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior or vicarious liability – you, in most cases, may be responsible for the actions of employees who are on the clock. Having procedures in place is crucial if you want to keep your drivers safe and avoid liability,” Cleary adds.
Sean M. Cleary is the founder and principal attorney at a personal injury law firm based in Miami, Florida – The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary. Sean represents individuals injured in car accidents, truck accidents, rollovers, or other types of motor vehicle accidents.
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