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Cell phone ban while driving exposes employers to vicarious liability


January 26, 2010   by Canadian Underwriter


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Employers might be held vicariously liable if they permit employees to use hand-held devices while driving, warns Zurich North America.
This could include operating a company-owned cell phone or mobile device while driving.
As the banning of such devices grows more common in jurisdictions, Zurich notes that since 2001 a growing number of U.S. jury awards have illustrated that businesses could be forced to pay the price for employee’s distracted driving.
“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,” said Jim Noble, Zurich’s director of motor fleet business.
“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.”
Zurich recommends developing an electronics usage policy and implementing it uniformly to help proactively manage this risk. Guidelines for creating an electronic usage policy include:
•    restricting use of all types of technologies in the company’s distracted-driving policy;
•    prohibiting use of non-work related technology gadgets in non-office work areas to help minimize distractions and other safety-related hazards; and
•    enforcing rules consistently and fairly with all employees.