Put the Brakes on Negligent Drivers
Perhaps we all know someone from our various hometowns’ who fits one or more of the following descriptions: “lead foot”, “slams on the brakes” or “daredevil”. While driving recklessly is glorified in the movies and cars are continuously engineered for more speed or power, there is one more complication that can arise from too many encounters with your local patrol officer. Negligent drivers are an issue as old as automobiles themselves, however their impact on a business owner is rarely discussed, and the exposure are severe. With the right precautions, you can prevent your cooperative or family farm operation from spending precious dollars due to negligence that you may not have been aware your business had committed.
Johnny is an applicator for the local crop service company. Three years out of high school, Johnny has done it all and seen it all, and fresh off his 21st birthday, he ends up with a DUI. Johnny finds himself without a license for several weeks, and deeply in debt. While Johnny may very well have been a hard worker and valued employee, a decision to the future of his position, and possibly his employment in general, must be made. The manager of the local crop service knows how difficult finding experienced seasonal help can be, and asks his agent to “ask for an exception” on Johnny’s ability to drive company vehicles, once his license is reinstated. The manager believes if the insurance company allows Johnny to drive, he is without exposure.
If an insured has a long time employee, who either has a negligent driving record due to a recent DUI or extensive speeding ticket history your insurance company will find out. Most commonly, insurance companies will run their own set of MVR, or “Motor Vehicle Reports” annually for each of their insured’s who have a commercial automobile policy. The driver’s list, which you update, is where the information is found to run these reports. Keeping your driver’s list current is extremely important! In this example, once Johnny’s license was reinstated, his manager tried to push his insurance carrier to keep him on as an active driver. Many times business owners are successful in getting these exceptions. What most of these business owners fail to realize is that even though the exception has been made to cover the negligent driver for any property damage or bodily injury he or she may cause up to your policy limit-the business owner has opened himself up to a new exposure.
Johnny is rehabilitated after his $10,000 mistake, and he is back in the saddle of his ¾ ton service truck, delivering toolbars, parts, NH3 tanks to fields near you. Occasionally he even operates the lime spreader as well. Johnny may have learned his lesson about drinking and driving but he does have a momentary lapse of judgement and decides to text his girlfriend while pulling a set of twin tanks back to the fertilizer plant. On the shoulder, an elderly woman is perturbed by a flat tire (calling her agent for roadside assistance) Johnny sways his pickup and implements across the lanes, and unfortunately hits the elderly woman.
Please excuse the severity of these examples, but as an insurance professional, these types of claims are seen far too often. Since Johnny was accepted onto the driver’s list, the property damage and bodily injury to the woman with the flat tire was covered. The poor woman who was run over by a flatbed pickup and twin anhydrous tanks goes through a tough recovery, and can no longer plant flowers, play with her grandkids and loses her quality of life. For this she hires an attorney she sees on television and sues the crop service company. The manager of the local crop service calls his agent demanding he re-open the claim on behalf of his defense. There is no coverage to defend a company against a claim filed for a negligent driver. The crop service company allowed a driver to operate their vehicles, who has proven himself unsafe. Because young Johnny had an unsatisfactory driving record, he should have been either moved to a non-driving position, or let go. Regardless he now cost the local farm service company, hundreds of thousands of dollars because they were negligent of letting an unfit driver behind the wheel of their company vehicles.
Negligent Drivers can be defined as an employee with authorization to operate company vehicles, or drive his/her own vehicle in the operation of the business, but has an unsatisfactory Motor Vehicle Report. If you have any questions as to whether or not you may have an employee who could be considered a negligent driver, please call your agent. Keep in mind; you do not have the express right to find out what your employees Motor Vehicle Report says unless you have your employee sign a waiver giving you express consent 1) to run the report, 2) to view the report. Typically this is a form that is a part of your new hire application, if it is not call your agent immediately!
In closing, I would like to end on a happy note, You can prevent this situation from ever happening to your agri-business. If you do not wish to spend the time or money to run MVR reports on driver’s yourself, call your insurance carrier. Many carriers have discounted programs that make it cost effective to run MVR’s & background checks. As a broker, I run MVR’s for insureds from time to time, while following the correct procedure with waivers. You would be amazed how relieved business owners feel having a tool to help them make such important decisions. Protect your livelihood with the right insurance product and for crying out loud, don’t be like Johnny!
J.L. Hubbard Insurance & Bonds