UNITED STATES—An employer being liable for their employee’s negligence isn’t a new concept. It dates to the Roman Empire, when it was known as respondent superior. It means “let the master answer.” It is a concept that holds an employer liable for the harmful actions of an employee, especially if the employee was performing their job duties.
In the case of medical malpractice, for example, a hospital can be held liable for the actions of its doctors or other staff under the respondent superior doctrine. To avoid responsibility, most hospitals consider their doctors to be independent contractors. To prove liability, it must be proven that the hospital granted position to someone unlicensed, incompetent, or uncertified.
Each state creates its own standard for the respondent superior doctrine. One way this happens is via a benefits test in which it is determined whether or not the employee had permission, either expressed or implied, to be on the premises. The other is via a characteristics test, which determines whether or not the employee’s actions were part of their job.
Examples of Respondent Superior
Medical malpractice aside, there are several instances when an employer might be held liable for the injuries or damages caused by an employee. In a very broad sense, if an employee caused harm while performing work duties or acting on behalf of their employer, then the employer can be held liable.
This notion is also referred to as vicarious liability. Not only does it apply to employer-employee relationships, but it can also apply to relationships such as the relationship between a superior and a subordinate.
An example of this would be if a person’s boss loaned them their vehicle to run errands related to the business. While carrying out these errands, the employee is involved in an accident that injures another person. Vicarious liability can hold the boss, and thus, the employer, responsible for the victim’s injuries.
Another great example of respondent superior or vicarious liability is a trucking accident. When an 18-wheeler is involved in an accident, there are typically very serious injuries involved. Not only can the victims hold the truck driver themselves liable, but the employer of the trucker is often also named in the lawsuit. The employer is typically a trucking company.
Vicarious Liability Lawsuits
In a vicarious liability lawsuit, the plaintiff need not necessarily prove that the employer was directly involved. They need only prove that there was an existing employment relationship. A lawyer can help you get the evidence you need to prove this relationship. Contact an attorney if you want to receive maximum compensation in your personal injury case.
While the concept of respondent superior can help you recover your damages, it does have limitations. For example, an accident that happens at the workplace will generally be covered under worker’s compensation. In these cases, unless certain conditions of negligence can be proven, the injured employee cannot sue their employer unless their worker’s compensation coverage is deficient or nonexistent.
Negligent hiring and negligent retention are similar concepts in which an employer may be held responsible for their employee’s actions. Under this concept, if an employer knowingly hires a violent offender and that employee causes harm to a patron or customer, the employer may be held liable. The same concept is applied if an employer retains an employee after learning an employee poses a potential danger.
The concept of respondent superior helps victims recover damages caused by employees they would otherwise not be able to recover from the employee alone. If you were injured by a company’s employee while they were performing their job duties, you may be eligible for compensation for your economic and non-economic damages.