Respondeat Superior: Employer and Principal Liability

Car WreckYou get in a car accident. Whose fault was it? While sometimes the wrongdoer is clear, seldom is there not at least some dispute over who was at fault. When you get into an accident with someone who is acting on the discretion of an employer (think: delivery driver, someone doing errands for a superior, driving to a client meeting, etc.), the employer can be held responsible for the employee’s conduct. Vicarious liability is the legal concept where a third party can be held responsible for another’s tortious (wrongful civil) conduct. Respondeat superior is a branch of vicarious liability that pertains specifically to an employer or other principal being held liable when an employee or other agent acts wrongfully under the scope of employment.

Initiating a Lawsuit Against More than One Party

The person who has been wronged or injured due to the wrongdoing of another is called the plaintiff in a civil action. This is the person that initiates the lawsuit in court, and makes allegations that they have been wronged by another person or entity. From a tactical viewpoint, a plaintiff may want to file an action against all relevant parties to increase the likelihood of recovery. For example, a delivery driver may not have significant amounts of insurance or assets, but the company the driver was driving for might. Thus, if a person is seriously injured in an accident, it may be in the interest of the plaintiff to try to recover damages from the company, alone or in addition to the driver.

The driver, in most instances, would be protected by the employer regardless of who a plaintiff initially decides to name in the lawsuit. When an individual is acting within the purview of their employment, the employer is typically responsible for the wrongdoing of that employee. In a legal sense, it can get complicated if the employee is acting negligently (such as drinking and driving, acting unsafely around customers, or conducting themselves otherwise unreasonably) on their own volition, but in most instances, the employer will bear the weight of the responsibility if they were responsible for the employee’s conduct and/or, the employee was acting at the employer’s direction when the injury occurred.

Boston Personal Injury Attorneys

Initiating a lawsuit is one of the most important and complicated parts of engaging in litigation. Although a plaintiff’s initial complaint can be amended if necessary, it bodes well to make sure you have all of the information possible before filing a lawsuit to increase the likelihood of success. Understanding the potential people or entities you can or should file suit against, what the implications are of doing so, and what your options are for litigation are all critical to the lawsuit. Having attorneys that you can trust to help you navigate the legal system will help you even when things become seemingly complicated. John J. Sheehan and his team of experienced personal injury attorneys will work with you from beginning to end to ensure you are comfortable and understand what is going on with your case. If you or anyone you know has been injured in the greater Boston area, contact our Boston office today.