Coca Cola paid up for vague cellphone driving policy

 A USA insurance specialist in his blog, Keven Moore on Insurance, warns employers; Your company’s cellphone driving policy needs your attention.

Moore alerts employers that any business, public entity or non-profit organisation with a commercial fleet, face potential for disaster every day.

A crash involving one of your drivers could mean an injured employee, a damaged vehicle or even a bankrupting lawsuit that can exceed limits of liability on your auto policy, advised Moore, adding that hands-free kits are not a legal or practical solution.

Last year, Coca Cola was successfully sued as a court awarded $21 million in damages to a woman who was struck by a Coca Cola driver who had been talking on her hands-free phone cellphone at the time of the accident.

The plaintiff’s attorneys argued that the Coca Cola cellphone policy for its drivers was vague and ambiguous. They also suggested that Coca Cola was aware of the dangers but withheld this information from its driver, which led directly to the circumstances that caused the accident.
 
Thomas J Henry, one of the plaintiff attorneys, cited the company’s inadequate cellphone driving policy.
 
In another case in the USA, an ex-wife of a vice president at Insurance Services is suing his employer after he and their daughter were killed as he ran into the back of a tractor trailer. The plaintiff’s attorney alleges that he was using their handheld device at the time of the accident for work-related purposes, which is being contested after his employer had erased the phone records.

Distracted driving-related lawsuits are growing. The numbers of law firms specializing in distracted-driving type lawsuits have also grown.
 
Cellphone records are easily attainable through subpoenas, with dates and times. Such cases emphasize the importance for any size company to have a clear cell phone usage policy for their drivers, wrote Moore.

“I am amazed when I call on existing or prospective clients today only to find that they don’t have such a policy in place for their drivers. Written policies cannot exist only on paper; they also must be enforced. A company must walk the talk. Employers can be vicariously implicated if they fail to manage and monitor how employees are using mobile devices while driving. “

Employers must provide periodic safe driving training that reinforces policy. No matter how obvious this may seem, constant reinforcement should occur often and it must be well documented to you are to be able to best defend yourself in a lawsuit.
 
From the Coca Cola story, we can see that hands-free devices are not the answer to distracted driving.  Employers must be aware of the risks of using a cellphone while driving and take certain steps to minimise the risks.

• Keven Moore is director of Risk Management Services for Roeding Insurance (www.roedinginsurance.com). He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25 years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. See here for more insurance columns by Keven Moore.

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