The Cost of Distracted Driving

Choosing the Right Program
Oct 19/2016 Published by: Lytx Lytx Telematics

Consideration of a driver risk management system naturally includes an analysis of cost. And it’s easy to think of those costs being relegated to hardware charges, setup fees, and training expenses – budgeted line items that any executive can see. But what aren’t always obvious to an organization are those costs it’s avoiding by implementing a driver safety program.

Distracted driving lawsuits are now commonplace in the legal landscape. Companies and organizations that manage large fleets are vulnerable to legal costs every mile and minute they drive. Lawyers are increasingly striking deep into the pockets of corporations that allow employees to talk or text while driving company vehicles.

Here are some examples that illuminate just how courts and juries are awarding major sums to distracted driving victims and their families:

  • Commercial transportation company pays $24.7 million
    A federal judge awarded $18 million, a district court awarded $6 million, and a jury awarded $700,000 in three cases involving a crash that killed three people and injured 15 others. The driver of the tractor trailer was checking his phone for text messages when his truck ran into 10 vehicles that had stopped in backed-up traffic. 
  • State of Illinois pays $8.7 million 
    While responding to a crash, a state trooper was speeding at more than 120 mph while using his cell phone when he lost control of his squad car and crossed over the median. The crash instantly killed two teenagers and injured a couple in another vehicle. The families were awarded millions by the State Court of Claims.
  • $4.1 paid by electrical contracting company
    An employee was lost and using his GPS on his cell phone while driving a company van when he ran through a red light, broadsiding another vehicle and seriously injuring a 70-year-old woman.

These are just a few examples. I’ve listed more at the end of this article.

The overriding factor is that the costs of distracted driving – in human and financial terms – are skyrocketing. The potential costs of lawsuits and damaged reputation resulting from even just a single distracted driving event can do irreparable harm to your organization. It’s important to consider these potential costs when you know you have distracted driving in your fleet and you’re looking at ways to eliminate it.

Additional examples that illuminate how courts and juries are awarding major sums to distracted driving victims and their families:

  • Technology company loses $21.6 million
    A jury found the driver and the corporation that owned the company car liable when the driver rear ended another vehicle on the freeway, causing the vehicle to cross the median into oncoming traffic, resulting in a fatality at the scene.
  • Car dealership owes $1.75 million
    A car salesman was talking on his cell phone when he crashed into a minivan carrying a mom and her three kids.
  • Prince George’s County loses $4 million
    An off-duty police officer driving his police cruiser was texting moments before crashing into another vehicle, killing the college-age passenger. Although he was off duty, the county was held liable.
  • Law firm pays $2+ million in damages
    An attorney was talking on her cell phone when she struck and killed a 15-year-old girl in a hit-and-run accident. The attorney claimed she didn’t see the pedestrian and originally thought she hit a deer. One factor in the suit was the billable hours that the attorney charged her clients while talking on her cell phone.
  • Paper company settles for $5.2 million
    An employee was driving on an interstate freeway and talking on her company-supplied cell phone when she rear-ended the vehicle in front of her, causing it to go into a ditch and roll over.  The victim, a widow mother of four, lost her arm because of the accident. Instead of going to trial, the company settled the lawsuit.
  • Alabama trucking company ordered to pay $18 million
    A federal magistrate ordered the company to pay millions in reparations for an accident that happened when one of its drivers reached for a cell phone.
  • Arkansas lumber company pays $16.1 million settlement
    A lumber salesman crippled a 78-year-old woman while talking on his cell phone.
  • $5 million paid by construction company
    A construction company employee reached over to a mounted, hands-free cell phone provided by his employer and crashed into a stationary sedan. Although the company claimed the employee was off-the-clock at the time of the crash, the cell phone was provided by the company and it, therefore, was held responsible.
  • The State of Hawaii pays $1.5 million
    A State Appeals Court ordered the State of Hawaii to pay damages to the family of a pedestrian who was struck by a car being driven by a public school teacher employed by the state.
  • $1.45 million paid by the City of Palo Alto
    The city agreed to settle with a crash victim with permanent, debilitating injuries after being rear ended at a stoplight by a city worker who was reaching for his cell phone while driving.
  • Construction company pays $750,000 in damages
    A construction shift supervisor was involved in a crash on his way to work, and although the company claimed that commuting exception to respondeat superior, a Georgia appeals court denied the appeal because there was evidence that the supervisor was involved in a phone conversation regarding company business around the time of the crash.
  • Brokerage firm loses $500,000
    A brokerage firm employee ran a red light and killed a motorcyclist while making “cold calls” as he drove to a non-business-related event on a Saturday night. Although the firm did not own the cell phone or the vehicle, the plaintiff claimed that the company was liable because it encouraged employees to use the phone while driving.
  • Construction equipment rental company issued a partial summary judgment
    An employee was involved in a car crash while talking on the phone with a co-worker. The company was held partially responsible because it paid for the cell phone bill and did not take action to prohibit employees from conducting business on cell phones while driving.
  • Cable communications company settles for undisclosed settlement
    A field technician for a cable company rear ended another vehicle with his company truck, killing two women in the crash. The company settled two weeks before trial rather than risk going to trial.
  • Pharmaceutical company trial in pending litigation
    A 62-year old man was killed when a sales representative who was allegedly using his phone while driving to work in a company car hit him. The judge has ruled that the jury may consider punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
  • Computer network support company settles for undisclosed amount
    An 18-year-old female was killed when an employee, driving his employer’s vehicle, crashed into her vehicle head on. The company was found vicariously liable.

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