Respondeat superior, which translates to “let the master answer,” is a legal theory that provides injury victims with a way to hold employers responsible for the negligent actions of its employee. Respondeat superior is a type of vicarious liability, and the theory stems from the idea that, in some instances, employers should bear the responsibility for their employee’s actions, even if the employer did not instruct the employee to act negligently. Employers in these cases do not have to do anything wrong to face liability; rather, liability attaches as a result of the employer/employee relationship. Virginia injury plaintiffs who wish to recover under a theory of respondeat superior or another vicarious liability theory should consult with an attorney to ensure they meet the requirements.
Courts have long reasoned that public policy dictates that employers must be responsible for their employees’ actions, because employees are acting to further an employer’s business interest. If employers can benefit from an employee’s good conduct, they should also assume the cost of the employee’s negligence. Further, employers tend to have more resources, so injury victims have a better chance of fully recovering from employers rather than their agents.
Injury victims can recover from businesses and employers if they meet three main conditions. First, they must prove that an employer/employee relationship exists. To meet this requirement, plaintiffs may be able to point to whether the employee is on regular payroll, what power the employer has over the employee, and the conditions of the employee’s employment. Next, the victim must be able to show that the employee was engaged in furthering the employer’s business at the time of the accident. Finally, plaintiffs must be able to prove that the negligent employee was within the scope of employment when the accident occurred. Courts have generally agreed that anything an employee did that furthered their employer’s interest was within the scope of employment.
A typical scenario where respondeat superior may come into play is when a delivery truck causes an accident. In those cases, the injury victim may recover from the driver’s employer. For example, recently, a local news report described an accident that left a 61-year-old biker dead. State police stated that the woman was trying to go around an Amazon delivery truck on a sidewalk when the truck struck her. Police are still conducting an investigation, and no criminal charges have been filed.
Employers often avoid liability by asserting various defenses, including claiming that the company is not responsible because the driver is an independent contractor. However, in situations where a driver is operating a company vehicle and wearing a uniform with the company’s logo, it may be difficult for the company to argue that the driver was not an employee. Of course, all Virginia personal injury cases are very fact-specific, and anyone who has been injured is encouraged to reach out to an attorney for assistance.
Have You Suffered Injuries in a Virginia Accident?
If you or someone you love has been injured due to the negligence of another, contact the experienced Virginia bicycle accident attorneys at Robinson Law. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling complex personal injury cases and understand the devastating toll that Virginia car, truck, and bicycle accidents can have on a person and their loved ones,. We work tirelessly to ensure that negligent individuals and entities are held responsible. Contact our office at 703-649-4500 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.