Liability and duty of care. What do these terms mean? And which should companies focus on most?
While many companies worry about liability related to business travel, it’s far more important to focus on duty of care. Why? Because workers compensation in the United States almost completely insulates companies from travel-related liability.
Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, and companies aren’t always insulated from liability. To help you better understand liability, duty of care and how each affects your business, check out the guide below.
What is Workers Compensation?
In the United States, any individual can bring a personal injury lawsuit against a party that could have or should have prevented the injury from happening. But, when a personal injury occurs in the workplace, the injured person instead files a claim with his or her state workers compensation authority. In most cases, the injured employee is given awards as dictated by a workers compensation schedule.
Personal injury suits are uncapped and brought in civil or common court. Workers compensation filings are capped by the state-specific schedule. In rare cases, injured employees have attempted to file suit in civil or common court seeking uncapped compensation and punitive damages. But, in almost all of these rare cases, the court throws out the suit because workers compensation awards are designed to be exclusive.
Why Workers Compensation Limits Liability
Because of how workers compensation is structured, companies are almost completely insulated from liability. Workers compensation extends to almost every business and industry across the country, even when injuries are related to unusual circumstances like mass shootings or natural disasters like earthquakes or wildfires.
For example, in 2013, a group of former professional football players settled a lawsuit with the National Football League. Players initially chose to sue the NFL rather than their individual teams, because their individual teams are limited from liability by workers compensation.
Your company holds a duty of care obligation to protect them from harm — even if workers compensation limits your overall liability.
Beware The International Exception
There’s one huge exception to workers compensation and its ability to limit a company’s liability: when an injury occurs internationally. If and when your team members get injured overseas, there’s a chance they could successfully sue for uncapped compensation and punitive damages in civil or common court.
Suits over international injuries aren’t always successful, though. Workers compensation in some states might extend to international travel for certain periods of time, but there’s a significant chance that workers compensation will not limit your liability if a team member is injured while traveling abroad.
Focus on Duty of Care Rather Than Liability
No matter where your employees are traveling, it’s always best to focus on duty of care rather than liability. When your employees are traveling domestically, your company holds a duty of care obligation to protect them from harm — even if workers compensation limits your overall liability.
When your employees are traveling internationally, your company also has a duty of care obligation to protect them from harm — and, in international cases, living up to your company’s duty of care obligation offers the added benefit of protecting the company from injury-related liability.
Need Duty of Care Assistance?
We previously shared duty of care tips that your company can use to protect its traveling team members. At JTB Business Travel, we also offer a complete duty of care solution that can help companies lacking in-house resources to fully manage risk. We use a common sense approach when providing duty of care services — as well as the many other services we offer as a comprehensive corporate travel agency.