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Detroit Free Press: Remote texting may be bad for business

Businesses in Michigan could face liability for car accidents caused by employees texting with an employer or other employees

Businesses could face remote texter liability when employees text while driving.

Businesses better brace themselves for potential tort liability for car crashes involving texting employees.

That was the message of my recent blog, “How can you avoid remote texter liability?,” where I explained:

“If you text your employees while they’re behind the wheel [and they’re “likely to read and reply to your text messages”], you could be sued on the theory of ‘remote texter liability’ if the employee whom you’re texting gets in a car crash and injures or kills someone else.”

It’s also the message of the timely article by JC Reindl of the Detroit Free Press, “Could businesses be sued for texting employees who are driving?,” where he wrote:

“It may only be a matter of time before Michigan businesses are held liable in auto accidents that happen as a result of texting with an employee on the road …”

For JC’s story, I talked to him from my own perspective as a car accident lawyer about the prospects of businesses in Michigan being held liable on a theory of “remote texter liability” for crashes caused by employees who are texting while driving:

  • “Once you have that employee-employer relationship where the employee is really feeling compelled to respond to these texts and look at these texts, and putting not only himself but everyone else on the public roadway in enormous danger, then I think there should be liability against the employer …”
  • “Where I expect to see it most is with trucking cases. With trucking, you always have people in the company who are trying to reach the trucker on the road …”

Thankfully, this issue is finally getting the attention it deserves.

Every day, the hidden but ever-growing crisis of texting while driving and distracted driving continues to grow.

And, the science – along with the car accident injuries and fatalities continue to mount – showing that the dangers of texting while driving are as dangerous as drunk driving.

With stories like JC’s for the Detroit Free Press – and my own blog posts on the topic – businesses hopefully will not stick their heads in the ground and continue to ignore how dangerous it is to look the other way while employees are texting each other and their employers while driving.

And hopefully they will also know how easy it is to protect the public and themselves from remote texter liability.

How can businesses protect themselves against liability for crashes involving texting employees?

Recently, I blogged about the need for small businesses to implement policies to protect themselves from “remote texter liability”:

“If you text your employees while they’re behind the wheel [and they’re “likely to read and reply to your text messages”], you could be sued on the theory of ‘remote texter liability’ if the employee whom you’re texting gets in a car crash and injures or kills someone else.”

This is an important issue because texting has become a very significant part of many businesses’ communication process.

My advice for businesses – to protect the public, their employees and themselves (from remote texter liability) – was to:

  • “Requiring that employees — while driving during work hours and/or in the course of his or her employment — pull over and stop at a safe location to text, dial and/or otherwise use or talk on a cell phone or electronic device.”
  • “While driving at all times — but certainly if you are a small business owner who is concerned about remote texter liability, then at least during work hours and in the course of employment — employees must comply with the company’s texting-while-driving and distracted-driving policies by refraining from handheld or hands-free use of a cell phone to text, respond to texts, talk on the phone, surf the internet and play games.”
This entry was tagged Tags: auto accident, car accident, distracted driving, texting while driving
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