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Things Small Business Owners Need to Know About Company Vehicle Accidents
You might have created a booming business with high profits, but you may face a few challenges if you lose a liability lawsuit.
“When your business owns motor vehicles that your employees use, 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 accidents attorney.
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, amount to $74,000. When you add to that liability for the physical injury of other parties involved, you could be looking at million-dollar costs.
Typical uses of company vehicles – such as 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.
But the workday period and the commute to and from work are also 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 employed the driver.
If the employee was using your company car, you might be liable for their actions during the employment scope, meaning they were performing work-related tasks at the time of the accident. This includes driving for work purposes.
Here are some things every entrepreneur that uses fleet vehicles can do to protect their business:
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, you need to make sure that the cars driven by your employees are work-ready. This means that the tires must not present signs of wear, the safety equipment is in place, and in good working order.
That’s why, before letting anyone use company vehicles and letting them enter the public roadway, always check to see if they’re up to manufacturer standards. Also, review and consider the safety features of all the vehicles to be made available to drivers.
The vehicles you use on the company business should be on a regular preventive maintenance schedule for servicing and checking of safety-related equipment. Also, have a mechanic thoroughly inspect the vehicles at least once a year to ensure everything is working properly.
If you’re negligent as a business owner, you may be held responsible for the harms or losses caused by your inability to maintain a safe commercial vehicle.
Secure materials for transport
When your vehicles are transporting tools, equipment, objects, these 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. And you could be held liable for the failed security of the cargo that caused an accident.
Avoid company vehicle accidents: train your drivers
It’s easy to lose sight of the consequences of driving habits. To reduce the risk of accidents, you’ll need to provide your employees with continuous safety training and communication. Besides, you can set guidelines and rules for everyone who plans to use the vehicles. Even experienced drivers can benefit from periodic reminders of safe driving practices and training.
Promote safe driving practices
Set a clear expectation for safe driving practices as a part of your business culture. You can greatly reduce liability risks 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 and those with whom they share the road safely. If necessary, you can improve behavior, changing attitudes, and increasing skills to build a safe culture.
Avoid calling employees when they’re driving to avoid company vehicle accidents
Set the example. When you’ve enforced a company driving policy that discourages mobile devices’ use while driving, you need to make it easier for your employees to follow the guidelines and do their job 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.
“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”, underlines Sean M. Cleary, with regards to on-the-job car accidents.
About the author:
Sean M. Cleary is the founder and principal attorney at The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary, a personal injury law firm based in Miami, Florida. Sean represents individuals injured in car accidents, truck accidents, rollovers, or other types of motor vehicle accidents.