As a business owner, keeping informed about the finer points of employment law is important. If you're getting ready to hire your first employees, you need to be sure that you understand exactly what you can and cannot do. Don't risk getting yourself into legal trouble by asking the wrong question at the interview or making an off-hand comment that's considered legally unacceptable. I created this site to give you the basics of employment law expectations. I hope that the information here helps you to understand what you should and shouldn't do as you're interviewing and hiring your first staff members.
It's getting cold outside, and your idea of a good morning probably doesn't include sitting in a freezing car with the engine running, waiting for the frost to thaw off the windshield. However, if you're thinking about just putting the keys in the ignition, turning on the engine, and going back inside the house for your coffee while the car warms ups without you - think again. Doing that can land you in a lot of legal and financial trouble.
In Some Places, It's Just Flat-Out Illegal
The cold weather turns a lot of people into unintentional lawbreakers, because they don't realize that warming up their car in bad weather is actually illegal where they live. Some states have laws against it, but even if your state doesn't make it illegal, your city ordinances might. So, whether it seems fair or not, you can get a ticket and a fine for leaving your car running even in your own driveway.
Generally speaking, the laws are designed to discourage you from making it easy for a thief to take off in your car. Car thieves aren't known for being particularly cautious drivers, especially if the thieves happen to be a couple of neighbor kids who see an unattended car with the engine running and decide to take it for a joyride. The law isn't worried so much about your car as it is the public safety.
Your Negligence Can Cost You If There Is An Accident
Assume for a moment that one bitterly cold morning you decide to turn your car on and let it warm up while you went back into the house, and it gets stolen.
If it's illegal where you live, you'll find yourself writing out a check for the fine at the same time you're writing out the police report. If you're lucky, your problems and losses will stop there, but don't count on it. Even if it isn't illegal where you live to leave the car running, you can find yourself in the middle of an expensive lawsuit if the thief gets into an accident and hurts someone or damages their property.
Under the law, when you do something, you have a responsibility to take into account how you can reasonably expect other people to behave. Since most people are aware that leaving the keys in the car - especially with the car running - is a little bit like sending out engraved invitations to every opportunistic thief out there to come steal the car, the law says that you can reasonably foresee that it will happen. You can also reasonably foresee that the thief might get into an accident while driving your stolen car.
That means that if you decide to take the risk anyhow, you're being negligent. Since the thief wouldn't have been able to drive off so easily with your car without your negligence, the law says that you are also responsible for any accidents once he or she does.
You should also realize that your insurance isn't going to pay for the damages that happen as a result of the accident, either. Insurance policies will cover you if the car was hot-wired or the thieves had to break into your garage to get it, but will rarely cover any damages if you left the keys in the car and walked away.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where a cold morning led to your car being stolen and an accident occurred while the thief was driving, talk to an attorney from a firm like David H Harris Jr, Attorney who handles car accidents and insurance coverage issues before you make any statements or file reports, in order to best protect yourself.