Yes, in many cases. Under the well-settled legal principle respondeat superior, employers can bear legal responsibility when their employees negligently hurt someone else. However, you will need to carefully analyze the circumstances to make sure the employee acted within the scope and course of employment when the accident occurred. That’s when you need an experienced attorney.
What Is Respondeat Superior Liability?
Generally, a person or business is only legally responsible for its own actions. However, employees carry out much modern business for and at the wishes of their employers. When these employees negligently injure someone, the accident victim needs to pursue someone for compensation. But from whom?
Courts eventually decided that employers need to pay injured victims compensation for injuries their employees caused. Several reasons support this theory. First, employees are acting to further their employer’s business, so the business benefits from the employee’s actions. If a business can reap the benefits of an employee’s good conduct, the business should also bear the cost of employee mistakes. Second, the employer likely has much deeper pockets than its employees, so holding the business financially responsible is fairer to victims.
The employer does not have to do anything wrong to face legal liability. Instead, liability attaches simply because of the employment relationship.
Does Respondeat Superior Liability Apply in Your Case?
Just because an employee injured you does not necessarily mean you can hold the employer liable. Instead, the Virginia Supreme Court requires the following conditions:
- An employer-employee relationship exists
- At the time you suffered your injuries, the employee was conducting the employer’s business
- The employee acted within the scope of employment
Consider the following example: Melissa is a secretary at a dentist’s office. Two hours into her shift, she remembers she needs to pick up a cake for her daughter’s birthday, so she takes a break and heads to the bakery. On her way, she slams into another car, injuring the driver.
In this situation, Melissa is not conducting her employer’s business—she is pursuing her own interests. For this reason, Melissa’s employer is probably not responsible for your injuries.
What Do You Have to Prove?
According to the Virginia Supreme Court, an injured victim needs to prove an employer-employee relationship. Then, the burden shifts to the employer, who must show that the employee was not conducting the employer’s business and was not acting within the scope of employment when you sustained your injuries.
Questions sometimes arise when an employee intentionally injures someone. For example, a bus driver might get into a fight with a passenger. In these situations, it is not clear whether the employee acted within the scope of employment, so the issue may go to a jury to decide.
Call Us Today to Speak with a Richmond Personal Injury Lawyer
At Emroch & Kilduff, our personal injury lawyers have built our reputations by obtaining significant settlements and awards on behalf of our clients. If a business’s employee injured you, we want to hear from you. To schedule your free consultation, please call (804) 358-1568 or submit this contact form.