October 31, 2017

Are Your Pockets and/or Your Insurance Deep Enough For The Silliness of Cell Phone Use?

By Paul Bieber

Now what? A cell phone can cost a hundred bucks, or a thousand. This won’t break your budget. Right. But what happens when that cell phone is used when on the road and an accident ensues? Suddenly you are nervous.

Most states have laws against holding a cell phone while driving, and, of course, your employee manual says that no employee shall use a cell phone while driving. But just maybe, driving with a cell phone in hands-free option is happening in your company. (I’ll bet a nickel it is, and that you do it yourself!) What happens if an accident occurs while talking on a hands-free phone? Is your company liable? Recently Smith Barney and International Paper reached settlements in accident cases just under these circumstances.  

But, you send out one-man trucks, and they call in on their way to their next job so you know what is happening and can alert your customer that the truck is on its way. What do you do? You can’t stop your communications chain so are you taking a risk? Yes. But you can temper this risk by having your field folks spend as little time on their cell phone as possible. Allow personal calls only when the vehicle is parked. Keep your calls to the shop as short as possible. Make sure your hands-free phone is easily handled and your employees know how to use it. Occasionally look at the call log on their phone and make sure the personal calls are at lunch time or are very short.

Do you allow employees to carry their personal hands-free phone? Many companies do. But then the liability comes back to you. Many companies try to save money by not giving their crew a company phone and just using the employee’s phone. You then have no control over the usage, but you do accept the liability in this case.

Talk with your insurance agent about this issue for the state you are in, and their coverages for your business. I have heard of insurance policies that don’t cover you if an employee is on their personal phone.

There is absolutely no right answer to anything here. It depends on your appetite for risk and how you manage your business.