Their once was a story of four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Somebody would do it, but Nobody asked Anybody. It ended up that the job wasn’t done, and Everybody blamed Somebody, when actually Nobody asked Anybody.
What a mess, but you know when it comes to managing a company this happens all the time. When it comes to liability and who’s responsible when an accident happens, it can’t just be left in the hands of Somebody. You, as the manager, need to find out exactly who is responsible. Not knowing where the liability lies can cost your company a fortune.
So who is responsible and what can be done? Let’s take a look.
Have you ever heard of the term respondeat superior? According to Wikipedia it is a Latin term meaning, “let the master answer.” It’s a legal doctrine, which states that in many circumstances an employer is responsible for the actions of employees performed within the course of their employment. While employed by a company, employees are an extension of the company and its policies. So what this means is you might be liable for more of your employees’ actions than you think.
To illustrate, let’s look at a few examples of this concept I found on the Internet.
“A Superior Court judge has determined that a company, which sends an employee to a training seminar, may be held responsible for an accident caused by the employee when driving home while intoxicated after the employee had a few drinks in the bar with other employees following the seminar. The court concluded a jury could find that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred, even though he was driving home at the time of the accident, and even though he had engaged in excessive drinking after the seminar was over.”
Who would think this would be an issue of company liability? I’m sure many of you have sent employees to training seminars. Have you ever required them not to stop at the lounge and have a drink before leaving? Probably not, but even though the class was over, they were still an extension of your company.
Here is another example. Imagine that your employee is talking to a client via cell phone on his way home from the office and hits what he mistakenly thinks is an animal — but is a 15-year-old girl — and keeps driving. The girl dies. Cell phone records show that he was talking at the time of the accident, and time records reflect that he was billing a client for the time he was talking. The employee can be charged with a felony hit and run.
This occurred in Virginia and the family of the girl brought a $30 million wrongful death suit against the employer. The suit is still pending.
I bet most of your employees have cell phones issued by the company. Researchers have found that talking on the cell phone while driving may be as dangerous as driving drunk, regardless of whether you’re holding the phone to your ear or using a remote earpiece. It’s not that your hands are occupied. It has more to do with your brain being occupied, so it stands to reason that accidents will happen.