Negligent Entrustment: Tips to Mitigate Your Risk
Last week we defined negligent entrustment and reviewed why it can be such an enormous business risk. So what can you do about it?
There’s no sure fire way to avoid a negligent entrustment lawsuit. However, as companies are becoming increasingly aware of the enormous stakes that accompany these cases, they’re beginning to take a more proactive approach. Here are several strategies that we’ve seen companies employ in an effort to lessen their exposure:
Conduct Appropriate Background Research
One of the most obvious ways to lessen the chances of a negligent entrustment lawsuit is to ensure that your drivers are competent before handing them the keys. This starts even before the employee is hired with a thorough background check. An applicant with prior convictions for road rage related incidents or reckless driving may not be someone that a company would want operating their vehicles.
A recent study by Quest Diagnostics revealed that positive drug tests among workers in the United States has reached a 12-year high of 4.2%. In the event that a driver under the influence of drugs causes an accident, companies are looking to demonstrate that they did their due diligence by testing the employee prior to them being allowed to drive a company vehicle.
Regular MVR Checks
An MVR check is one of the most common ways that employers screen their potential drivers. In the past, companies would run these checks once then never looked at them again. In the past, companies would run these checks once then never looked at them again. In the Xerox case referenced earlier, the driver obtained 2 DUIs during the course of his employment that went completely unnoticed by the company. To avoid that scenario, many companies are now making it a habit to run annual MVR checks on all of their employees who operate vehicles in the course of business. And in some cases, companies are even utilizing a service that allows for continuous monitoring for new violations.
Provide Ongoing Training
Many companies are starting to put an increased focused on continuous training for their drivers. This includes not only refreshers on the rules of the road and local driving laws, but also includes education on the latest advancements in vehicle technology and how to safely operate those features. This training can be conducted in the form of online courses, classroom instruction, or even behind the wheel training.
Have a Thorough Vehicle Policy
Another approach that companies are taking is crafting a thorough, up-to-date vehicle policy that defines acceptable and unacceptable driver conduct. These policies generally cover topics such as vehicle operation, drug and alcohol use, personal use, use by other drivers, and distracted driving. The policies are often times updated regularly, and require drivers to sign an acknowledgement form indicating that they have read and understand the information.
Have a Strict Maintenance Policy…and Enforce It
Cases like that of Domino’s Pizza referenced earlier have companies placing an increased focus on vehicle safety. More and more organizations are taking the time to ensure that they craft a comprehensive vehicle maintenance policy that covers not only vehicles owned by the company, but employee’s personal vehicles that are used for business purposes as well. But perhaps, most importantly, we’re seeing companies become strict enforcers of these policies as well.
We live in an increasingly litigious society and negligent entrustment lawsuits are becoming more common. Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely eliminate driver accidents. However, with proper education and planning, by both the company and their drivers, it’s possible to mitigate the risks of having drivers on the road.