In some personal injury cases, the injured claimant may have more avenues for compensation under the legal concept of vicarious liability. It allows the injured person to claim from an additional party or parties who are indirectly responsible for the injury. Here’s how vicarious liability works in California, and what it can do to your injury compensation.
What is Vicarious Liability?
Vicarious liability or vicarious responsibility is the legal principle that a person or entity could be held responsible for the actions of another. In an accident, for example, even if only one driver caused it, it’s possible that another person or company could be “vicariously liable” for the at-fault driver’s actions.
California law recognizes vicarious liability and outlines it in the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions. Under this, injury victims have the opportunity to claim compensation from multiple parties, namely the party who directly caused their injury and any other party who is secondarily liable.
Who Can Be Vicariously Liable for an Injury in California?
California’s Civil Jury Instructions specify that the following parties could be vicariously liable in a personal injury case:
- Parents or guardians are responsible for their minor children’s actions.
- Employers are responsible for the actions of their hired employees during duty hours.
- Surgeons are liable for the negligence of their nurses and other practitioners during an operation.
- Persons or businesses are responsible for the negligence of their agent.
- Persons are liable for a crime if they encourage another person to commit it.
Vicarious Liability Law Examples
A common example of vicarious liability is if a commercial truck driver causes an injurious accident while doing deliveries. The trucker may be directly at fault, but their employer may also be held liable for the employee’s negligence. Thus, the injured victim may be able to claim not just from the truck driver but also from the employing freight company.
When the case involves an employee and their employer, vicarious liability is also legally called respondeat superior (Latin for “let the master answer”).
Another type of vicarious liability is parental responsibility. An example is if a driver under 18 years old causes a collision through drunk-driving. Because the driver is a minor, their parents or guardian will be vicariously liable for resulting injuries and property damage.
How Does Vicarious Liability Affect My Compensation?
If you were injured by a negligent party and you found another party who could be indirectly responsible, you may name them both as defendants in your injury claim. This gives you a better chance of getting favorable compensation.
For instance, if a truck driver hit your car and caused you catastrophic injuries, their personal insurance policy may not be enough to cover your costs. But if you can successfully claim from the trucker’s employer as well, it’s more likely for you to get a large settlement.
How Can I Use Vicarious Liability in My Injury Claim?
There are two main parts in using vicarious liability: First, you have to prove that the at-fault party directly caused your injury. Next, you must also establish that the additional party is responsible for the at-fault person’s actions. Having an attorney is indispensable in proving these two requirements.
A vicarious liability case often becomes challenging when an employer tries to deny that they’re responsible for their worker’s conduct. We have seen this happen many times in truck accident cases. Major retail and cargo companies commonly assert that the at-fault truck driver is not their employee but their independent contractor. This allows the companies to avoid vicarious liability.
An experienced truck accident attorney is familiar with this tactic and may be able to fight the “independent contractor” pretext. In any other type of vicarious liability case, it’s wise to get a competent injury lawyer to ensure that all responsible parties are identified and held accountable.
Contact a Temecula Personal Injury Lawyer
For nearly three decades now, the Zucker Personal Injury firm has handled injury cases from car crashes, truck collisions, and other accidents in Southern California. We have won large settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients, even in claims against powerful, well-resourced companies.
Talk to us about your injury. We can help you identify all responsible parties and establish their liability. Call the Zucker law firm at (951) 699-2100 today.