Vicarious liability is the imposition of legal liability on one person for the actionable conduct of another, based on the relationship between the two persons.
A good example of vicarious liability in the personal injury context is the employer-employee relationship.
Thus, if a plaintiff is injured by an employee who is working for an employer at the time of the accident, both the employee and the employer may be held responsible for the plaintiff's damages.
The doctrine of respondeat superior permits injured parties to pursue compensation from employers when their employees' negligent actions cause damages. To establish vicarious liability in these situations, several elements must be satisfied.
- An employer/employee relationship must exist in which the employer had control over the worker.
- The worker was employed by the employer at the time of the event.
- The incident or accident happened during the employee’s work shift.
- The employee’s actions were part of his work duties or job responsibilities.
- The injury was caused by the employee’s actions, executed within the scope of his employment.
Determining whether an employee’s actions were performed within the scope of his employment can often be a complex and difficult legal task. Some factors to consider include the following.
- What type of work was the employee hired to perform?
- What type of job related duties did the employer reasonably expect from his worker?
- How much freedom was given in the performance of the employee’s job duties?
- When and where did the incident occur?
- What was the employee’s intent?
- What was the exact nature of the employee’s conduct?
- Was any personal activity involved?
These are just a few of the questions that must be answered to determine whether an employee’s actions impute liability to their employer under the doctrine of vicarious liability. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help make this determination.
In New Jersey, parental vicarious liability applies for specific property damage by children under the age of 18. Title 2A, Section 2A:53A-16 sets a cap on imputed liability for damage to railroads and other public transportation at $5,000. If a child damages school property, Title 18A, Section 18A:37-3 allows recovery of compensation from the parents for actual damages. When a minor child intentionally destroys property, or causes injury, Title 2A, Section 2A:53A-15 allows civil action against a parent who failed to provide adequate control and supervision of the minor. No cap is imposed for these claims involving willful or malicious conduct.
Parents may also face liability under a separate negligent supervision theory for damages their child causes in motor vehicle accidents, with firearms or in other situations that are due to parental neglect.
The principal-agent relationship encompasses the employer-employee relationship, but can be applied more broadly. Essentially, when a person acts as an agent, or on behalf, of an another party, his or her negligent behavior may attach to the principal.
For example, when a motor vehicle owner entrusts the use of their vehicle to another to perform a chore for the owner, a principal-agent relationship may be formed. If the driver gets in a car accident while performing the task for the owner, the owner may be liable for the resulting damages.
If you have suffered injury or damages due to the negligent actions of someone, contact the Reinartz Law Firm to discuss your case. It is important to determine whether more than one party may be held accountable, and whether the doctrine of vicarious liability will allow you to pursue compensation from parties other than those directly involved in the subject accident.