According to an article by The Hollywood Reporter, comedian Tracy Morgan is suing Walmart for negligence. Walmart’s driver Kevin Roper, running on 24 hours without sleep, reportedly ran his truck into a limousine transporting Morgan and passengers on a New Jersey turnpike. Though all passengers sustained serious injuries that required hospitalization or surgery, comedian James McNair didn’t survive the crash.
Morgan’s suit alleges that Walmart should have known it was unreasonable for Roper to drive 700 miles before his shift and that Roper’s fatigue was the cause of the accident. The claim also notes that Walmart routinely breaks shift limit regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Though Roper was behind the wheel, the suit aims to make Walmart take responsibility for their driver’s actions. The plaintiffs – Morgan, his assistant Jeffrey Millea, Krista Millea, and comedian Ardie Fuqua – are seeking compensatory and statutory damages, punitive damages, and legal fees. In addition to suing for negligence, Krista Millea is suing for loss of consortium.
But this lawsuit isn’t just an anecdote. It’s a lesson for small-business owners. Let’s unpack it and see what you can learn from this unfortunate accident and subsequent lawsuit.
Lessons Learned from Tragedy: How to Safeguard Your Small Biz on the Road
Perhaps the most notable reminder from the Morgan lawsuit is simply this: your employees represent your business in every capacity. And when they drive on behalf of your business, you can be held liable for their mistakes and accidents – even if they happen in vehicles your business doesn’t own.
If you’re like most small-business owners, you likely don’t have the funds to defend your business against a negligence lawsuit spurred by an auto collision. It doesn’t help that these claims are some of the most costly that a person or business may face.
Fortunately, there are two ways to ensure your business has the funds to defend itself against such a lawsuit:
- Commercial Auto Insurance. Let’s say you’re a professional installer, and your utility truck is in your business’s name. Chances are you need Commercial Auto coverage for adequate protection. At its most basic, this policy can cover your vehicle against loss or damage caused by collisions or theft. However, to spare yourself the cost of a lawsuit, you want a policy that also offers liability protection.
- Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance. If your business rents vehicles or relies on its employees to use their personal vehicles for business errands (e.g., a caterer), this is the option for you. Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance covers your business’s legal expenses when it’s sued over auto accidents in borrowed vehicles. However, this type of auto coverage doesn’t cover physical damages to the vehicles.
How to Find Appropriate Commercial Auto Coverage
To find appropriate insurance coverage for your business’s vehicles, answer the following:
- Does your business own its vehicles? If so, state laws usually require you to carry Commercial Auto Insurance. Your rates vary depending on where you live, the kind of vehicle(s) your business owns, your claims history, and other factors. To learn more, read “What Goes into a Quote for Commercial Auto Insurance?”
- Do you rely on employees to drive personal vehicles for business errands? If so, consider adding Non-Owned Auto Insurance coverage to your business protection plan. Your employee’s personal auto coverage should protect them if they are sued over an accident that happens while running errands for your business in their own vehicle. This policy only covers your business when it is sued over the same accident.
- Do you rent vehicles to use for business? You may be able to save money on your rental insurance if you carry Hired Auto Insurance. Keep in mind that Hired Auto coverage only addresses your business’s liability in auto accidents. It won’t pay for physical damage to the rented car.
For more information on Commercial Auto Insurance and Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance, contact one of our small business insurance agents.