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Companies agreeing to large settlements in employee distracted driving accidents

Many New Jersey drivers are aware of the dangers of cellphone use behind the wheel. We’ve discussed it on this blog in the past and there has been significant coverage of the risks by the news media.

Cellphone records showing that a driver was using the device when the accident occurred can often lead juries to find the driver liable for injuries. When the driver was working at the time or answering a work call or email, their employer is often also liable under the theory that employers are responsible for the actions of their employees and any injuries caused in the scope of their employment.

Juries are sympathetic towards people who are injured by distracted drivers, and often see corporate liability as a way to encourage more rigorous safety standards in the future. A recent poll showed that fear of drivers on cellphone outranked fear of drunk drivers for the first time ever. The fear may be justified; drivers who are using their cellphone are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident than drivers who are not using their phones.

The trend towards large settlements and recommendations by the NHTSA has led to many Fortune 500 companies banning cell phone use by employees on the job.

Determining whether or not a cellphone was being used at the time of the accident is getting easier and more precise as well. Many phones now have location tracking technology embedded in them, so experts examining the records and data are able to determine the price time the accident occurred by looking at when the person stopped moving and cross-checking that with the time that the text was sent or the call was placed.

Source: Washington Post, “Employees use of cellphones while driving becomes liability for companies,” Ashley Halsey III, May 20, 2012.

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