One of your employees has a few drinks at a company dinner, runs a red light on the drive home, and hits and seriously injures the occupants of another car. Is your company responsible? Though the laws vary by state, the simple answer is yes. And you need to be sure your insurance will cover it.
"When the employee is acting in the course and scope of his or her duties, then the employer is vicariously liable if that employee injures someone," says attorney Jon Miller, a partner with Berger, Kahn, Shafton, Moss, Figler, Simon & Gladstone in Irvine, California.
As the holiday party season approaches, it's a good time to consider the issue of drunken driving and liquor liability. Essentially, Miller says, if an employee consumes alcohol on company time or at a business-related social function, the employer can be held liable if they're involved in a crash that causes injury or death.
Prevention is the ideal protection. Restrict the availability of alcohol at company functions, and provide rides to anyone who needs them without repercussions. But company policies don't always prevent problems. Shield your company with adequate insurance-general liability for the business and auto insurance on vehicles and drivers.
And if the drunk employee is injured? "The employer's workers' compensation insurance will [go into effect]," says Miller, "and that's the sole legal avenue the employee has against the employer."
Jacquelyn Lynn is a freelance business writer in Orlando, Florida.
- Berger, Kahn, Shafton, Moss, Figler, Simon &
(949) 474-1880, www.bergerkahn.com
For reprints and licensing questions, click here.