The internet age has spawned “multi-tasking” while driving, such as texting, calling on cell phones, trolling the internet on a Blackberry, and working on a computer. Some workers’ cars have become mobile offices.
Cartoon by Tony Auth, Philadelphia Inquirer
The New York Times did an excellent article discussing the grave dangers of drivers working at the wheel. See “Driven to Distraction: At 60 M.P.H. Office Work Is a High-Risk Job” (October 1, 2009). It seems that many workers, especially salesmen and service reps on the road, use either texting, cell calls, or computers or all while driving. There is just one problem: people cannot “multi-task” while driving. This has been proven. In 5 to 6 seconds that a driver checks a text message, his car is hurtling hundreds of feet along a highway.
In an automobile accident caused by a driver multi-tasking, the driver’s employer might also be liable if the employee were carrying-out business. This can be so even where the employee was using his own vehicle. If an accident occurs while the driver is “working” on either his Blackberry or computer, then the employer may be liable since the employee was “working” at the time and furthering the employer’s business.
In view of this, some employers have a firm policy that cell phones, computers, and Blackberries are not to be used while driving. Employees can only use these devices when they park. In the event of a car crash caused by a texting motorist, the issue of whether the driver was carrying-out business may be a crucial issue in the case.
In any event. the courts would hold that a driver texting or using a computer is negligent. Courts would probably grant summary judgment to plaintiffs on liability. The key in some cases will be whether the employer can be held responsible where the employee’s personal car carries only minimal insurance.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a “multi-tasking” driver, please feel free to call me at 800-581-1434 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark E. Seitelman, www.seitelman.com, 10/6/09.