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Vicarious Liability

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Vicarious Liability

Vicarious LiabilityMost personal injury cases are based on negligence. The person who failed to use reasonable care is financially liable for damages their actions cause.

However, vicarious liability can hold a third party liable for damages even though they did not directly cause someone’s injury.

What Is Liability for a Personal Injury Claim?

What Is Liability for a Personal Injury ClaimLiability is a legal claim against another person’s assets or property. If someone causes you harm because of their negligent acts or intentional torts, you can file a personal injury lawsuit.

The personal injury lawsuit seeks compensation for economic damages, including:

You can also demand compensation for your non-economic damages from the party who caused your injury. These damages include pain and suffering, a decrease in quality of life, and permanent impairments.

How Does Vicarious Liability Work in a New York Personal Injury Case?

Vicarious liability is a party’s responsibility for damages caused by a subordinate based on the relationship between the parties. The legal doctrine of respondeat superior holds an employer legally responsible for the wrongful conduct of employees.

Invoking vicarious liability or respondeat superior requires the injured party to prove:

  • The parties have an employer-employee relationship;
  • The employer had a supervisory role over the employee;
  • The employee was acting within the scope of employment when the injury occurred; and,
  • The employee’s conduct was the proximate and direct cause of the person’s injury.

The injured party has the burden of proof in a vicarious liability case. The evidence you present must prove the above elements by a preponderance of the evidence. The jurors must believe there is a greater chance that your allegations are true than untrue.

Vicarious liability can apply in any personal injury case where an employee causes an injury while performing their job duties. For example, a restaurant owner could be liable for damages caused by a waiter spilling hot food on a customer. Likewise, a nursing home could be liable if a staff member causes a patient’s death by giving them the wrong medication.

An employer often has “deeper pockets” than the employee. Employers purchase liability insurance that could cover the negligent acts of an employee, and they have more resources than their employees. Therefore, suing both the employer with the employee can provide access to a greater source of compensation for damages.

Does Vicarious Liability Apply to Independent Contractors?

Employers do not exercise supervisory control over independent contractors. Instead, the contractor controls how to perform a job to complete a contract. Therefore, vicarious liability typically does not apply to independent contractors.

However, there could be exceptions. A company or individual could be held vicariously liable for the conduct of an independent contractor if:

  • The company intentionally misclassified an employee as an independent contractor.
  • The independent contractor was assigned tasks that could not be delegated to a contractor.
  • The independent contractor was hired to perform inherently dangerous work.
  • The company was negligent in hiring the independent contractor.

Vicarious liability cases involving independent contractors can be more challenging to prove. However, it is possible if the evidence supports an exception that would create liability for both parties.

Can an Employer Avoid Liability for Damages Caused by an Employee?

The employer might try to avoid a vicarious liability claim by proving the employee was not acting within the scope of employment. They could also argue the employee was not responsible for causing the injury. If the employee did not cause the injury, vicarious liability would not apply.

An employer might claim that the injured party contributed to the cause of their injury. Under New York’s contributory fault law, the party would not be entitled to compensation for all damages. Instead, the compensation would be reduced by the injured party’s percentage of fault.

Are There Other Examples of Vicarious Liability in Personal Injury Cases?

In addition to an employer-employee relationship, the child-parent relationship could support a vicarious liability claim. Generally, you would need to prove that the parent was somehow negligent to hold the parent responsible for a child’s actions.

For example, a parent could be liable if they negligently entrusted an instrument to a child that could be reasonably dangerous for a child to use. For example, if a parent gives a child a firearm. Another example might be a parent who fails to adequately supervise their child’s behavior when the parent reasonably believed the child could endanger others.

The court might also hold a parent liable for a child’s conduct if there is evidence that the parent condoned or consented to the conduct. For example, a parent allows a 13-year-old to drive by giving them the keys to the vehicle.

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our New York Personal Injury Lawyer

Our legal team investigates all possible sources of compensation for your personal injury claim. We work to maximize the amount you receive for damages and injuries. Call the Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers at 212 564 2800 to schedule a free case evaluation with a New York personal injury attorney.

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