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Understanding Vicarious Liability


You might think you know who’s responsible for your injuries if a vehicle changes lanes into you or runs a red light and crashes into your car. But sometimes there’s more to the story.

Let’s say the negligent driver works for a trucking company and was making a delivery when he caused the accident. If the driver was on company time, is the employer responsible for injuries that the driver causes?

The answer to that question is usually yes, because of a doctrine called vicarious liability.

What Is Vicarious Liability?

Companies are responsible for certain employee actions because of vicarious liability, a legal doctrine that holds a party liable for negligent acts committed by someone else. In fact, both the negligent party and “the parent party” are jointly responsible for the victim’s injuries. This arises when “the parent party” exercises a certain degree of control over the negligent party.

The employer-employee relationship is not the only context in which vicarious liability occurs. An experienced attorney can help determine if vicarious liability is a factor in your case. Bringing all potentially responsible parties into one lawsuit is the most effective and efficient way to receive the compensation that you deserve.

Vicarious Liability Case Example

An Orlando woman who had cervical spine surgery now suffers from serious neurological problems that cause her both physical pain and mental anguish. She and her husband filed a lawsuit against the doctor, medical facility and property owner, alleging that they didn’t provide reasonable medical care. Obviously the facility and property owner didn’t perform the surgery themselves, but the couple argues that they are vicariously liable for the doctor’s negligence.

Limits to Vicarious Liability Doctrine

The vicarious liability doctrine doesn’t apply in every context where a business relationship exists between a third party and a negligent party.

For example, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that vehicle leasing companies are not responsible for accidents caused by the drivers who rent their vehicles. There’s a federal law that shields car rental companies from vicarious liability, and federal law preempts a conflicting Florida law that holds some leasing firms responsible for damages up to $500,000.

(Preemption is based on the constitutional principle that states can’t enact laws on subjects that the federal government “occupies” and that federal law trumps certain state laws.)

It’s also important to remember that Florida is a pure comparative negligence state, which means plaintiffs lose out on a portion of damages if they are partly to blame for their injuries, and defendants pay damages that are proportionate to their percentage of fault.

Contact Us Today

Contact a West Palm Beach personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you were injured by someone’s negligence. We will examine the facts of your case and help determine who is responsible for your damages before filing a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf.

The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.




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