When you are injured by the negligence of an employee, you have two options. You can sue the employee for her actions, or you can sue the employer. The law allows you to hold an employer or company responsible for the actions of its employees under a legal principle called respondeat superior, which essentially means “employer liability for employee actions.”
Just to be clear, you can always sue an employer for his own negligence. For example, if a parcel service hired an employee who had a history of reckless driving, you can hold the parcel service liable for negligent hiring if the employee causes an accident. This is different. Respondeat superior, or vicarious liability, allows you to sue an employer when it had no hand in causing your injury.
When does respondeat superior apply?
You may sue an employer when if you are injured by the employee only while the employee is acting within the scope of their employment. This is a fairly broad standard. For example, an Ohio Court of Appeals held that when a security guard detained and searched an innocent customer, the company was responsible even though the security guard violated the rules set by the company.
When an employee deviates from his job so much, the court may not find that his actions were within the scope of their employment. Rather, the court will deem the actions of the employee a “frolic.” Frolic is a legal term that essentially means that the employee’s actions were so far removed from his job that his employer cannot be responsible.
For example, if an employee goes home for lunch and then while at home commits a battery, the employer will not be responsible. The act of the employee is too far removed from the scope of their business. However, if the employee is a bouncer at a nightclub and commits a battery while working, the employer may be responsible. The court will likely see that using physical force is within the scope of his employment and that the use was on behalf of the employer’s business.
Car accidents are also fertile ground for vicarious liability. If you are injured in an auto accident and the other driver is driving for work, you may be able to recover from the driver’s employer. The situation is particularly useful in accident involving truck drivers. For more information about using respondeat superior in accidents involving truck drivers, click here.
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Why is respondeat superior important to my claim?
Most employees are judgment proof. This means that they do not have sufficient assets to satisfy a claim for your injuries. Without being able to hold the employer liable, the injured party generally cannot recover the full value of their injuries. Employers on the other hand usually have adequate insurance coverage and large assets, which the court can seize in order to satisfy a judgment.
If you want to find out whether respondeat superior may affect your injury case, call the personal injury lawyers at Bressman Law.