What is Vicarious Liability?

If you are injured by the negligence of another person it is important to know that you may have an action against not only that person, but may also have an action against others based on the situation.  Through the doctrine of vicarious liability, one person (or company) may be held liable for the acts of another person.  Not only does vicarious liability allow a party to recover from multiple sources, it may also help a plaintiff sue the proper party and assure they will receive just compensation.

Employer’s Vicarious Liability

The most common example of vicarious liability is holding employers liable for the acts of their employees. Proving a case of vicarious liability against an employer can greatly help your recovery because it will allow a plaintiff to recover from the employer’s insurance which has the resources to properly compensate an injured individual. The legal doctrine that governs an employer’s liability is the doctrine of respondeat superior, which translates to “let the master answer.”

The doctrine of respondeat superior is based on the premise that an employer should be held liable due to their ability, or duty to control the individual who acted negligently.  The primary element to establish when proving a case of respondeat superior is that the employee was acting within “the scope of employment” when the accident or injury occurred.  This means that the employee must be performing duties for the employer at the time of the negligence.  A court will review the time, the place, and the method the employee was performing their duties at the time of the accident.  This review may include an analysis of the employee’s job description, job duties and whether the accident occurred at a time and place where the employee was acting within those duties. Typically, if the employee was acting with the intent of fulfilling their job, or in furthering the interest of their employer, they will be found to have been working within the scope of employment.

Parental Vicarious Responsibility

In some cases, a court may also find that a parent is vicariously liable for the actions of their child.  While a parent is always responsible for their child, they may not always be civilly liable for the acts of their children.  While there are several ways to hold a parent liable for the actions of their child, a common element to prove a parent’s vicarious liability is by proving the parent’s own negligence or failure to act appropriately which contributed to the injury caused by the child.  For instance, in the following situations, a court may find that a parent is vicariously liable:

  • The injury arose from the parent’s own failure to supervise or restrain the child from conduct that would endanger others, when the parent knew that the child had a propensity toward such conduct.
  • If the parent and child had a “master and servant” relationship, and the child was acting within the scope of his or her authority.
  • Parent was guilty of negligent entrustment of an instrument which would be unreasonably dangerous in the hands of a child, such as a firearm or other weapon.
  • The parent can be shown to have approved of or consented to the child’s behavior.


Medical Malpractice Vicarious Liability

While a doctor or staff member of a hospital may negligently cause the injuries of another, there is a chance that the hospital will also be held vicariously liable for the actions of these employees.  The factors involved in this are often based on the doctrine of respondeat superior mentioned above.  Therefore, the doctor or staff member must be working within “the scope of their employment.”  . Many times, when it comes to medical malpractice, the hospital will argue that the doctors and health care providers are “independent contractors” and therefore they are not responsible for the actions of those providers.  An attorney experienced in personal injury and medical malpractice actions will help you determine whether that is the case.

In all, whether you may have a case of vicarious liability can be tricky to prove.  In order to prove a case of vicarious liability, you should seek the help of an attorney experienced in personal injury and medical malpractice actions.  The attorney will help you gather all of the documents you need and develop the case and receive the compensation you deserve.

If you are the victim of the negligence of another, you’ll need skilled legal representation to assist you. The lawyers at Levine and Slavit, PLLC are experienced in representing New York City and Long Island residents in personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death matters. To schedule a free consultation, contact our New York City medical malpractice lawyers at (212) 687-2777 or for our Long Island lawyers call (516) 294-8282.

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