2 weeks ago
Employer Liability For Driver Negligence
The case of Tomasz Kroker who killed a mother and 3 children because he was looking at his phone while driving has highlighted a risk to employers who do not take driver discipline seriously.
The driver, convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison this week, is a reminder to employers about the importance of strict discipline for drivers and rules regarding distractions.
It has been a long established principle that employers can be liable for the damage done by their employees, including unlawful deaths. Only 2 years ago a Managing Director in Nottingham was sentenced to 6 years in prison because his tired driver killed someone in an accident, after being allowed to ignore drivers hours rules.
In this case, the employer has avoided liability for the deaths because only an hour before the accident, the driver had been asked to sign a declaration that he knew and understood that he must not use a phone while driving. In this way, the employer can show it took reasonable steps to ensure that drivers did not act negligently and have a defence against any action for vicarious liability.
Areas of risk for employers of staff who drive any vehicle are mobile phone use, smoking, eating, alcohol (even if consumed the night before) and working time. In addition to distractions, employers may be liable for faulty brakes, worn tyres or other vehicle failings.
The best advice for employers is to be able to show that you have taken steps before the event to try to avoid an accident occurring in the first place. Policies are the most common form of risk avoidance, but training too will help.
However, policies and training will be no use at all, if the employer does not take action when it discovers a breach. An employer who routinely overlooks breaches will be just as liable as an employer who has taken no steps at all.