Vicarious Liability and Respondeat Superior

March 6th, 2018

Did you know that a person who is not involved in an accident can still be held liable? The doctrine of vicarious liability dictates that in certain situations, one person or entity should be held liable for the acts or omissions of another person or entity. Thus, vicarious liability means that one person is liable for the torts of another. The most typical scenario for vicarious liability is through an employer-employee relationship however, it is applicable in other situations where a superior is held responsible for the acts of a subordinate.

The most common type of vicarious liability is the employer-employee relationship. This relationship is governed by the doctrine of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior is a Latin phrase for, “let the master answer.” Under the doctrine, an employer is responsible for the acts of his employee in relation to those whom the employer owes a duty of care. However, the employer is not always responsible for his employee. The employer is only responsible for his employee’s actions that occur within the scope of his employment. Therefore, this doctrine can only apply when the negligent party is an employee and the negligent acts occurred within the scope of the employee’s employment.

So what does, within the scope of employment mean? To satisfy this prong of the doctrine a person will have to prove that their injury occurred while the employee was on the clock. For example, if you get into a car accident with a FedEx truck, the only way to bring FedEx into the lawsuit is to prove the driver was delivering packages when the accident occurred. Additionally, a person could prove that the employee was hired to perform a certain activity that ultimately caused the injury. For example, if a surgeon is negligent while performing surgery, the hospital can be held liable because the surgeon was hired to perform surgery. Finally, the injured party can show that the employer benefited in some way from the activity the employee was performing at the time of the injury.

Furthermore, if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident or medical malpractice case, the negligent driver or surgeon may not be the only person to file a claim against. Vicarious liability, allows you to bring in an innocent third party. Why, you may ask. Well, vicarious liability ensures that employer’s will not be negligent in their hiring practices or while they are training new employees. Vicarious liability serves as an incentive to employers to make sure they are hiring and employing responsible employees.

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At the Bottaro Law Firm we see many motor vehicle accidents and medical malpractice cases. Our legal team works hard to get the results that you deserve! If you have a potential claim caused by a third party’s negligence, do not hesitate to contact us at 401-777-7777 for a free consultation.