Vicarious liability can result in a party being held liable for the acts or omissions of another party.
A party can be held responsible for economic damages, such as:
- Property damage
- Loss of income and benefits
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Medical bills and expenses
- Diminished earning capacity
- Personal care and household services
- In-home and long-term nursing care
Additionally, the at-fault party can be held liable for the mental, physical, and emotional pain and suffering the injured party experiences. Other non-economic damages include permanent impairments and diminished quality of life.
Typically, only parties who directly and proximately contributed to the cause of the person’s injuries are liable for the damages. However, the theory of vicarious liability could result in another party sharing liability for the damages.
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How Does Vicarious Liability Work in a Personal Injury Case?
The legal doctrine of “Respondeat Superior” can hold an employer vicariously liable for the actions of an employee. An employer’s liability is based on the legal relationship between the parties.
The following criteria must be met for an employer to be held vicariously liable for an employee’s acts:
- The parties must have an employer-employee relationship. Vicarious liability generally does not apply to independent contractors.
- The employer must have a supervisory role over the employee.
- The employee was acting within their scope of employment at the time of the injury.
- The employee engaged in conduct that resulted in your injury while operating within the scope of employment.
- The employee’s conduct was the direct and proximate cause of your injury.
As the injured party, you have the burden of proving the above legal elements of vicarious liability. In addition, you also must prove that the employee’s conduct was negligent or intentional.
The burden of proof in a vicarious liability case is by a preponderance of the evidence. Therefore, you must provide evidence to convince the jury that there is a greater than 50% chance that the allegations are true.
What Types of Personal Injury Cases Could Vicarious Liability Apply To?
Almost any personal injury case involving an employee causing injury to another person while on the job could result in a vicarious liability claim. Examples of personal injury cases that could involve allegations of vicarious liability include:
- Automobile accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Construction accidents
- Premises liability claims
- Commercial truck accidents
- Wrongful death claims
- Pedestrian accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Nursing home abuse cases
Employers often protect their business by purchasing general liability insurance and professional liability insurance coverage. Depending on the policy terms, the insurance may cover damages caused by negligent acts of employees during the scope of employment.
Are There Defenses To a Vicarious Liability Claim?
One common defense employers use to avoid liability for their employee’s actions is claiming that the employee was not acting within the scope of their employment. For example, a delivery driver rear-ends a car causing the people in the car to sustain serious injuries. The injured victims sued the delivery driver and the delivery company for damages.
The delivery company then claims the driver had deviated from the route to run personal errands without the employer’s authorization. The employer argues that the employee was not within the scope of employment at the time of the crash.
The employer may also raise allegations of contributory negligence. Maryland is one of the few states that adopted this harsh legal theory of apportioning damages.
Under pure contributory fault, if the victim contributed to the cause of their injury, the victim is barred from recovering any compensation for their damages. Therefore, if you were just 1% at fault for the cause of your injury, the law prevents you from receiving any compensation for damages.
Vicarious Liability and Independent Contractors
Generally, employers are not responsible for the acts or conduct of independent contractors. That is because the employer does not exercise a supervisory role over how an independent contractor performs the job.
However, there could be cases in which a business could be held liable for the acts of an independent contractor. Examples might include:
- The company exercised negligent hiring practices in retaining the independent contractor (i.e., hiring a known sex offender to work in a nursing home or school)
- The company assigned non-delegable tasks to an independent contractor
- The company retained independent contractors to perform inherently dangerous work
- The person is misclassified as an independent contractor when they are an employee
A court would consider all of the facts and circumstances to determine if a company could be vicariously liable for the actions of an independent contractor.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Baltimore Personal Injury Attorney
Claims of vicarious liability can increase the amount you could receive for a personal injury claim. Insurance companies and employers aggressively fight these claims to avoid liability. Contact our law firm to discuss your case with an experienced Baltimore personal injury lawyer.