A Texas woman was awarded a $43.5 million civil verdict against a Louisiana-based oil field services company and one of its vehicle's drivers. The jury found that the plaintiff was a victim of distracted driving by one of the company's executives -- who was operating a voice-activated phone while driving.
During investigations into the crash, it was discovered that the company had multiple cellphone policies -- depending on what position the employee held in the company. In comparison, many companies have a complete ban on cellphone use while in company vehicles because they pose such a danger of distraction.
Regardless of the situation, employers have a responsibility for their employee's negligent acts -- especially in the lack of clear policies that prohibit such activity.
In this case, the driver had just had a two-minute phone conversation immediately prior to the accident. Prior to that, he'd been texting. In fact, the driver had sent over 2,000 texts in only five months prior to the car accident that caused the plaintiff's injuries. This indicates that he was habitually engaged in risky, distracted and negligent behavior while behind the wheel.
The injured woman suffered serious neck, shoulder and back injuries and will likely face long-term trouble obtaining employment. However, it's unclear how much of the verdict's award she'll be able to collect. The company has gone bankrupt, so the plaintiff will likely only be able to collect what the insurance coverage is able to provide. That's still a considerable amount, however, worth a total of around $30 million.
Anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident would be wise to explore their legal options before considering any settlement offered by an insurance company. Just as this case shows, liability may extend far further than just the driver involved.
Source: mySA, "Lytle woman wins $43.5M jury verdict in driving-while-texting case," Patrick Danner, Nov. 22, 2017