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Personal Injury 101: Vicarious Liability

Posted on May 15, 2013 by Fast Lawsuit Team

You were injured in a vehicular accident caused by a delivery truck driver or a teenager who does not have a license and who “borrowed” his parents’ car for a joyride. The bad news is, the party who directly caused your injuries does not have the money to pay for the damages and injury you suffered. What do you do?

You can file for a personal injury claim citing vicarious liability. This allows you to run after another party for the compensation you deserve. Vicarious liability is a doctrine in personal injury liability that holds an entity (a person or a company) liable for the actions of another party. This can be a parent/guardian or an employer – entities that usually have “deeper pockets” and have the financial means to pay the compensation being demanded.

Vicarious liability for employers

Employers are the usual recipients of a personal injury lawsuit involving vicarious liability, since employers receive benefit from their employee’s actions. The following are the elements that cover this kind of lawsuit:
Employer control. If the employer can be shown to have contracted the employee and pays the employee a wage, the employer can be considered vicariously liable. Furthermore, it should be shown that the employer exercises inherent authority over the employee. The complainant needs to show that the employee works under the supervision, direction and control of the employer.
-  Employer’s acts of negligence. An employer can be held vicariously liable if it failed to exercise reasonable precautions to prevent injury:

  • The employer hired someone who he knows is unqualified for the job or he has failed to screen the applicant properly
  • The employee showed that he does not have the skills for the job but the employer delayed or did not re-assign or terminate the employee
  • There were no mechanisms to prevent harm caused by an employee’s mistakes (i.e. not enough training, no policies and procedures or no supervision)
  • The employer failed to provide adequate training for the employees

Individuals who are under a contract for services (i.e. independent contractors) are usually excluded and it may be more difficult to sue for vicarious liability.
-  Injury contracted while employee was doing his job. It needs to be shown that the actions that caused the victim’s injury were within the scope of the employee’s job responsibilities. This means that if the truck driver who bumped into the victim’s car was on his way delivering goods for his company, the company can be sued for compensation. However, if the truck driver was driving his own car after office hours, vicarious liability against the employer may not hold.
-  Authorized or unauthorized actions. Another element would be how the employee acted. If the actions that caused the injury were authorized because it is within the scope of employment, the employer can be held liable. If the employee performed his authorized tasks in a haphazard or dangerous manner, the employer can still be held liable as well. If the employee performed an act that was expressly prohibited or is illegal, the employer cannot be held liable unless it can be shown that it failed to expressly prohibit the act.

If the injuries were caused while the truck driver was doing illegal things or things that are not within his scope of responsibilities, there may be no link to show vicarious liability. For instance, if the truck driver was doing personal errands during his working hours and that was the time the accident occurred, the employer cannot be held liable.

Vicarious liability for parents

Minor children still fall under the supervision of their parents. This means that if a minor acts in a way that directly caused injury or harm to another, it can be shown that these acts were due to the parents’ own negligence or failure to act appropriately to prevent those acts.

Parents may be held vicariously liable when it can be shown that:
-  The child was acting within the scope of the parent’s authority or even under the parent’s consent or approval (i.e. the parent let the minor drive the family car to pick up the laundry from the drycleaner’s).
-  The parent’s failure to provide proper supervision or implement appropriate restrictions, when the parent knows the child’s tendency to act in a way that will endanger others. (i.e. The parent kept the car keys at a place that was easily accessible, knowing that the minor has a tendency to “borrow” the car and drive it without a license).
-  The parent negligently entrusted an instrument that could be unreasonably dangerous if a minor gets hold of it. (For instance, a parent fails to securely lock his gun in the gun safe and instead, keeps it lying around where a child can play with it and accidently shoot somebody).

Lawsuit Funding for Victims

As you can see, vicarious liability is not a simple matter. It is but natural that employers will exercise all means to defend themselves against the lawsuit. This may mean that you, as the victim, will have to wait longer than expected in order to receive the compensation you need. This means that in the meantime, you will have to dig deep into your pockets for medical expenses, household bills and even for legal costs related to your lawsuit. To free yourself from any financial worries, you can apply for a lawsuit settlement advance.

Also called lawsuit loans, these are non-recourse loans that you only need to pay back when the lawsuit settlement has come through. If the lawsuit fails to settle, the money does not have to be repaid. A lawsuit settlement advance can come during a time when you need it most. The good news is that at, you don’t need to jump through hoops and produce mounds of documents for you to file your application. The applications process is fairly simple and once you get approval for the lawsuit funding, you can receive the much-needed funds within the day.

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