. . . A Risk Manager’s Worst Nightmare.
That was the title of the webinar I participated in yesterday, hosted by Risk and Insurance. Speaking on the topic were:
- Dexter Hamilton, member and general/commercial litigator at Cozen O’Connor
- Jami McClellan, senior risk engineering consultant at Zurich
- Paul Bomberger, editor in chief of Risk and Insurance
Without wasting any time, the panel began discussion about various studies published in the recent past that highlight the dangers of distracted driving. Not only is it hazardous to those behind the wheel, but if the driver is talking on a work-issued phone, or about work-related issues, or driving a company-owned vehicle, the company stands liable.
According to webinar, there is no difference in distraction between hand-held and hands-free devices. In not-so-obvious news, distracted driving is one of the top insurance losses — averaging $100,000 per incident.
The panelists highlighted several cases of companies that were required to pay hefty sums for on-the-road accidents caused by their employees.
One such case involved a brokerage firm whose employee was driving his personal vehicle but talking about company business on his cell phone. The driver hit and severely injured a motorcyclist while talking on his phone. His employer was forced to pay $500,000 to settle the case.
“There’s simply going to be no sympathy once an accident happens,” said Hamilton. “And companies must realize that brand destruction is very critical. A high-profile accident can harm the brand everyone worked so hard to maintain and promote.”
For another example we can turn to the case of Tiburzi v Holmes, which involved Jeffrey Knight, who was a driver for Holmes Transport & Logistics, and Mark Tiburzi, who was driving his personal vehicle at the time. Knight caused an accident that injured 15 and killed three in St. Louis, Missouri. One of those injured was Tiburzi, who suffered severe traumatic brain injury. The cause of the accident? Along with excessive speed and driving over the alloted on-duty hours, distraction was blamed — Knight had looked away from the road to check his cell phone. The jury awarded Tiburzi $18 million — to be paid by Knight’s employer.
For more on this topic, check out “Unsafe at Any Speed” in Risk Management magazine.