Vicarious Liability for Employees: Are You Your Employees’ Keeper?
Technology, such as cell phones and laptops, allows employees to work further away from the office and direct supervision. Unfortunately, restoration contractors are now being held responsible for their employees’ actions while they are away from the office.
Over the next few blog posts, we’re going to discuss what vicarious liability is, how it affects restoration contractors, and what you can do to prevent potential litigation.
What is Vicarious Liability?
Just because an employee is not in the office or performing actions during regular business hours, doesn’t mean that the employer won’t be held responsible for the actions. Vicarious liability is employers are held responsible for employees’ negligent actions in the “Course and Scope” of their employment.
For example, a recent court case showed how “Course and Scope” is being defined by courts. An employee for a restoration contractor was answering client calls on his way from work. Distracted, he hit and injured a pedestrian. Not only did the court find the driver negligent, but the employer as well.
The Risk of Company Cars
One of the biggest risks companies face in regards to vicarious liability is in the use of company cars by employees. In fact, companies may face greater risks and litigation settlements for actions related to company vehicles. For example, many courts are charging employers with negligent entrustment. Negligent entrustment asserts that employers should not allow unqualified people to operate dangerous instruments.
Fleet Risk Management
Given the risks associated with the operation of company vehicles, it is imperative that all restoration contractors have some sort of fleet risk management program in place. At a minimum it should consist of the following:
Regular MVR verifications on all drivers.
Frequent driver safety and training meetings.
Accident investigation procedures that allow for swift corrective action.
Schedule inspections of all vehicles.