How Not Seeing Red Totaled One DJ’s Holiday Season
Disc Jockey Andy Huff had everything going for him: an established business, stable clientele, and a picture perfect family. To take his business to the next level and to increase his gig capacity, he hired Ryan Meyer. Ryan was a charismatic 22-year-old kid, whom Andy knew would be the perfect fit for high school clients. Ryan wasn’t very experienced, but Andy agreed to train him.
On Dec. 3, the two were scheduled to work together at a holiday ball at Sheldon High School. The gig started at 8 p.m., but Ryan was to show up at 6 p.m. to handle setup. Ryan was on his way to the event, cruising down Highway 226, listening to his iPod, when everything changed in an instant. One second he was driving and the next second, he was in the middle of a mangled mess of metal, glass, and blood. Within minutes, paramedics arrived on the scene.
From his hospital bed, Ryan learned that he had run a red light on Highway 226, T-boning a Honda Accord carrying four high school students. He’d been travelling about 45 miles per hour at the time, so the impact was devastating. Three students had serious injuries. Ryan had been driving his own car at the time, but technically he was working on Andy’s behalf.
As expected, the families filed a class action lawsuit against Andy Huff Productions and against Ryan’s auto insurance carrier. Andy was hopeful that the lawsuit would be settled by Ryan’s auto insurance carrier, but his attorney warned him that it was a long shot.
At the end of a lengthy and emotional trial, the jury awarded damages in the amount of $1 million for the four victims’ families. Ryan’s personal auto liability policy was ordered to pay up to its $300,000 liability limit. The rest of the judgment – $700,000 – was to be paid by Andy Huff Productions. The judge held Andy Huff Productions liable since Ryan was in the course of employment at the time of the incident. Andy could hardly breathe when he heard the news. He wasn’t even there at the time of the accident, yet he was found responsible!
Fortunately, Andy had the appropriate DJ business liability insurance. Even before the judgment, he was thankful for the policy because it provided for his defense, for which the cost was already in excess of $100,000. He could have never afforded to pay that on his own. The policy also paid the $700,000 judgment on his behalf, saving him from bankruptcy.
What you need to know BEFORE an employee drives on your behalf:
- Protect your business with a policy tailored for DJs that includes non-owned auto liability coverage for employees driving on your behalf.
- To ensure your non-owned auto liability coverage isn’t tapped:
- Require proof of auto liability insurance from all of your employees. The higher the liability limit, the better! For optimal protection, employees should also have a $1 million personal umbrella.
- Consider driving records when you hire and promote. You don’t want workers with poor records driving for you and placing your business at risk.
- Implement a strict procedure that prohibits cell phone use while driving within the scope of employment.
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Note: This case study is based on real claims scenarios. However, the story has been fictionalized to protect the privacy of those involved.