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Employee car accident may spell liability for company

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Q. An employee injured on the job recently was transported to the hospital by a co-worker. On the way back to work, they were in a car accident and both employees tested positive for illegal substances. What is our total liability? What can companies do to protect against this scenario? —T.K., Ohio

A. Your company is certainly at risk for a lawsuit, but it's hard to predict what your total liability could be. Possible claimants include your employees and the occupants of any other car involved. While the fact that both employees were under the influence of illegal substances would be a strong defense for the company, it will go only so far if the other side can show that your company knew—or had reason to know—that the workers were under the influence before they left work for the hospital.

A written policy against drug and alcohol use in the workplace would help shift the burden for the consequences onto the employee. The company also may want to develop guidelines on which employees are allowed to drive on behalf of the firm.

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