Vicarious Liability In Serious Injury Cases

A very common issue is a serious injury case is whether there exists any vicarious liability of a third party. If a truck driver runs into a motorist stopped at a stop sign and seriously injures them the question is whether the truck driver alone can be sued and/or their employer. Under longstanding legal principles, an employer is vicariously liable for the acts of the employee. As long as the employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the incident and injures the innocent third party, the employer will be vicariously liable for the damages caused by such negligent acts even if the employer did not approve of the acts and/or had company policies prohibiting such negligent behavior. The reason is because an employer is by definition responsible for the acts of employees acting within the scope of their employment.
In a serious injury case, the insurance carrier for the employer is likely to contend that the employee was not acting within the scope of their employment. If vicarious liability can be contested, the company can try to contend that there is no legal liability for the victim’s claims. Usually this is a defense used by the insurance carrier defending a company which is trying to avoid paying the claim. Even if the claim is legitimate and even if the victim is extremely injured and/or killed, in many cases, if the company’s insurance carrier can avoid liability by denying vicarious liability they will do so. Again, this issue turns on whether the employee, at the time of the act which caused the injury was acting within the scope of his/her employment.
Anytime there is an issue concerning vicarious liability, and if the case involves a serious injury, obviously, counsel should be retained as soon as possible. The victim’s rights need to be protected through an adequate investigation of these claims in order to establish vicarious liability. If it can be established that a particular employee was acting within the scope of their employment, then the victim’s rights can be protected by suing not only the negligent employee but also their employer. As this has obvious implications on the company’s insurance coverage, the extent of the coverage and the amount of the coverage available to satisfy the claim, any person with a serious injury involving possible third party liability should confer with experienced counsel as soon as is practicable to address this issue.

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