Vicarious liability serves as a way for injured parties to obtain compensation for harm caused by the wrongful acts of employees or agents.
The principle also serves as a deterrent, which forces employers to take reasonable steps to prevent harm from occurring.
"The Deep Pockets"
Normally, an employer has more financial means than an individual employee. Suing an individual who doesn't have any money won't do the injured party much good. As the saying goes, you can't squeeze blood from a stone."
This is why Vicarious Liability has been dubbed “the deep pockets” – because an employer has more money than an individual employee. Because of Vicarious Liability, those "deep pockets" can be tapped to pay for damages caused by employees or agents. By going after the employer, the injured party can usually receive a larger settlement than if they sued the employee individually.
Have You Been Affected By the Actions of an Employee?
If you or a loved one has been affected by anyone acting as an employee, Vicarious Liability can be a powerful tool in protecting yourself. You might have the right to be compensated for any damages caused by the actions of someone acting on behalf of an employer.
As with any legal matter, it is important to seek professional legal advice from a trusted law firm like Dressler Law. Contact us to learn more.
Vicarious Liability and Tort Law
Vicarious Liability is closely related to tort law, which defines a legal wrong committed against another person or property. Torts are civil wrongs that result in harm or injury to another person or their property, for which the injured party can seek compensation from the responsible party. Examples of torts include intentional torts (such as assault, battery, and defamation), negligence (such as car accidents caused by careless driving), and strict liability (such as liability for injuries caused by dangerous products or activities).
Vicarious liability can apply in situations involving physical injury, property damage, or financial loss. Generally speaking, to establish Vicarious Liability as part of a tort claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove that they were injured due to the negligence or wrongful act of an employee acting on behalf of their employer.
For business owners, it is important to understand Vicarious Liability and its implications as it can potentially have a drastic impact on your life or business.
Tracy Morgan and Walmart
One of the more well-known cases of Vicarious Liability in recent years was the case of comedian Tracy Morgan and Walmart. On June 7th, 2014, Tracy Morgan and other passengers were involved in a car crash that was caused by Walmart's truck driver. The accident resulted in the death of one person and severe injuries to Morgan and others. The driver had been driving for more than 24 hours continuously and had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Morgan filed a lawsuit against Walmart, alleging that Walmart was negligent in allowing the driver to operate the truck while fatigued and that Walmart should be held liable for the driver's actions under the theory of respondeat superior, or vicarious liability. Morgan argued that the driver was acting within the scope of his employment with Walmart at the time of the accident, and therefore Walmart should be held responsible for his actions.
The case was eventually settled out of court, with Walmart agreeing to pay a confidential settlement amount to Morgan and the other injured parties. Estimates put the price tag for Walmart at more than $90 million, according to Reuters.
The case served as a high-profile example of how vicarious liability can apply in a personal injury case, and how it can serve as a means for injured parties to seek compensation from employers for harm caused by their employees or agents.
Businesses Owners Need to Protect Themselves
The implications of Vicarious Liability mean that business owners need to be sure that they are protecting themselves and their staff. While every business owner hopes that their employees follow the law and take all necessary precautions, in reality, that is not always the case.
Vicarious Liability gives employers an added incentive to ensure their employees are properly trained and aware of the implications of their actions. Business owners should ensure employees know their responsibilities and obligations, including providing proper training and making sure they are aware of any applicable laws.
There are many ways companies go about protecting themselves from the actions of their employees.
- Clear policies, Manuals, and SOPs - One of the most important things a company can do is to have clear policies training manuals, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in place. These policies should be well-written and easy to understand so that employees are aware of the expectations and consequences of their actions. In the event of an accident, thorough and well-written policies can provide legal protection for the company.
- Regular Training - Another way businesses protect themselves is by providing regular training to their employees. This training should include information about any applicable laws or regulations. By regularly training employees, businesses are making sure that their staff is aware of the risks and repercussions of their actions.
- Proper Insurance - Businesses should consider taking out insurance policies that cover Vicarious Liability to help to provide financial protection in the event of a lawsuit. Businesses should carry appropriate insurance to cover any damages incurred in case of an incident involving Vicarious Liability.
- Background Screenings - Many Employers choose to conduct background checks on potential employees to ensure they are qualified and reliable. This can help to reduce the risk of any liability associated with their actions.
- Drug testing - Drug testing is another way some businesses choose to protect themselves. This can help ensure that employees are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work, which could result in potentially dangerous actions taking place. This is particularly important when it comes to jobs that involve operating machinery or driving.
We Are Here to Help
If you are a business owner and want to ensure you are properly protecting yourself, we can help. Our team of experienced lawyers can provide you with the legal advice and resources you need to make sure your business is compliant with all applicable laws. We can also help to provide proper training and policies for your staff so that they are aware of their responsibilities and any consequences associated with their actions.
Employers Are Not Always Liable
While employers can be held liable for the actions of employees, that is not always the case. There are times when employee actions may not result in the employer being held liable.
- Actions are not in the scope of work - If an employee takes action that is outside the scope of their job responsibilities, then the employer may not be held liable. For example, if a delivery driver gets into an accident while driving a personal vehicle on personal time, then the employer may not be held liable.
- The employer did not know or approve action - An employer may also not be found liable if they did not know or approve of the employee's actions.
- The employer had acted reasonably - If an employer acted reasonably to prevent an employee from taking inappropriate action, then they may not be found liable.
- The employee did not use corrective measures - If the employer had made attempts to correct the employee's behavior, then they may not be found liable.
- The employee is an independent contractor - Traditionally, if an employee is classified as an independent contractor, then the employer may not be held liable for their actions. In this case, liability would fall on the contractor themselves. However as discussed below, the gig economy might be challenging this assumption.
Although employers may not always be liable for the actions of their employees, businesses must go about protecting themselves from Vicarious Liability by implementing clear policies
Are You Being Sued Due to the Actions of an Employee?
If you are a business owner who is being sued due to the actions of an employee, it is important to seek legal counsel right away.
An experienced attorney can help you understand the intricacies of Vicarious Liability and provide advice on ways to protect your business from such liability.
Dressler Law is here to help you. We specialize in employment law and can assist if you are facing a lawsuit due to the actions of an employee.
Contact us today to learn more.
Vicarious Liability and Independent Contractors
Historically, employers were usually not liable under vicarious liability for the actions of independent contractors. But in the era of Uber, Doordash, and other "gig economy" companies, courts are re-evaluating this issue.
In the gig economy, the relationship between the worker and the company or platform they work for is often complex and can involve a range of legal issues related to employment status, including whether the worker is an employee or an independent contractor.
As with any legal issue, it's best to speak with an experienced lawyer who can help you navigate the complexities of Vicarious Liability and independent contractors.
Have you been injured by an employee?
If you or a loved one has been injured or suffered damages due to the actions of an employee, you may be entitled to compensation. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to seek redress from the company or individual who employed them.
We are here to help
At Dressler Law, we understand how difficult it can be when someone is hurt as a result of another's negligence. We are committed to helping our clients seek justice and the compensation they deserve. Our experienced attorneys will work with you to assess your situation and determine the best course of action for pursuing justice.
Contact us today to discuss your case.