Ensure you hire the best people to provide the highest quality
The key to a successful business is the ability to get goods or services where they need to be safely and in a timely manner. That means making sure you have drivers who are competent, putting your company in the best light. If not, you could be held liable in a negligent entrustment lawsuit.
One example of this is when you assign someone work—without making sure they’re qualified to do the job. Consider this: your company hires a driver with a history of speeding tickets. This driver, while speeding on his delivery route, hits another vehicle and injures those inside. Not only could your company be held liable for the occupants’ injuries and their vehicle, you could be held liable for punitive damages under negligent entrustment laws for not ensuring your driver was competent.
Punitive damages are a punishment for wrongdoing. In this case, not providing an atmosphere or conditions for the safety of others would be considered a wrongdoing. In some states, the court won’t let insurance companies pay for punitive damages. And since settlements for over $1 million are common, you should develop procedures to help close the door on negligent entrustment.
Select the right driver
The best place to start is at the beginning when hiring a driver. If a driver lacks job skills or can’t meet the physical, mental, or emotional qualifications, your company could be held liable for their actions on the road—that includes hiring a driver with a poor driving record.
Here are some ways to help reduce your exposure:
- Review the applicant’s motor vehicle records before hiring, and each year they’re on the job. That way you can keep repeat offenders from driving company vehicles. Also, require drivers to immediately inform you if they are cited, involved in an accident, or their license is revoked.
- Have a physician examine all candidates to make they don’t have any physical or mental conditions that may affect their driving. Some state laws allow this only after the driver is hired. Check with your lawyer to find out.
- Make sure the driver can legally drive the vehicle. Most states regulate drivers who operate vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of over 10,000 pounds. Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDLs) are required on vehicles with a GVWR of over 26,001 pounds. Also, keep a photocopy of all drivers’ licenses, making sure the licenses have not expired.
- Avoid inexperienced drivers. It’s against child labor laws to allow those under the age of 18 to drive more than occasionally, and it must be incidental to their employment.
One more thing to keep in mind: when hiring CDL drivers, consider using the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Pre-Employment Screening Program. This will give you information on an applicant’s past safety performance and accident history. Although this information is far more comprehensive than a Motor Vehicle Record (MVR), it should be considered a supplement and not a replacement for the MVR. For more details, go to www.psp.fmcsa.dot.gov.
Keep vehicles in good condition
Vehicle condition is also an important part in eliminating negligent entrustment exposures. Follow manufacturers’ recommended guidelines for vehicle maintenance and keep files on each vehicle. Perform a daily inspection, with a weekly documented inspection on file. We can provide you vehicle inspection checklists to help record this information.
Remember, you can reduce the possibility of a negligent entrustment lawsuit by selecting good drivers and maintaining safe vehicles. The single most important way to reduce the chance of claims is by hiring safe drivers in the first place.