Vicarious Liability — Why Someone Elsewhere May Be Liable For An Accident

Law Blog

When a driver hits you and causes injury, it's usually very clear that this person should be held legally liable for it. But can someone else be liable, even if they are nowhere near the accident? The answer is yes, and it happens through a legal concept known as vicarious liability. Here's how vicarious liability may affect three types of drivers and accidents. 

1. An Employee on the Job

The concept of vicarious liability, or respondeat superior in Latin, involves a principal and agent relationship. The most common principal is an employer and their agent is their employee. 

Respondeat superior says that because the employer has a high level of control over what the employee does and how they do it, they are liable for what happens in the course of that employment. So if a delivery driver hits you, their employer is probably liable. However, if their accountant hits you, the employer probably isn't liable since this is outside the scope of their employment. 

2. A Minor Child 

Although teens can legally drive, they are not yet adults by legal definitions. This means that their parents may be considered vicariously liable for their accident. 

The circumstances around the teen's driving will impact whether or not the parent is considered a principal and the teen an agent. If their parent sent them to the store or loaned them the car to go out, the parent is likely accountable. However, if the teen is not on any authorized escapades, the issue will be murkier. 

3. An Independent Contractor

Modern employment situations aren't always as simple as a straight employer/employee dynamic. Independent contractors are individuals hired by another party to perform some service — but who, importantly, are not on the payroll. As an independent party, they are first and foremost responsible for their own actions, including accidents. 

However, employers can't always get out of liability by skirting employment rules. If the court finds that the principal (the employer) misclassified the contractor per applicable rules, they could hold the principal liable just as though they were an employee. 

Similarly, some agents — notably doctors or attorneys — may still be considered as directed to the principal despite their independent status. 

Where to Start

Understanding all the relevant parties who may be liable for your injuries — and subsequent compensation — is key to getting what you need to recover. Start by learning more about vicarious liability and how it may affect your accident. Meet with an experienced auto accident lawyer in your state today.  

For more info, contact a local professional like Todd East Attorney at Law.


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