Imagine you are driving home from work when another driver runs a red light and slams into you. Clearly, that individual broke the law and caused the accident, and they (or their insurance company) are liable for your costs. But now imagine that the person who ran the red light was driving a delivery truck and rushing to make deliveries. Who is responsible: the worker, or the delivery company?
The answer under United States law is that the employer is liable for any wrongful acts by their employees—if the wrongful act was committed during the course of carrying out their job. This legal rule is known as respondeat superior. It is an important cornerstone of our legal system that protects both accident victims and workers:
- Workers do not shoulder the blame for actions taken as part of their job
- Victims have the right to seek a financial recovery from the employer, who typically has more assets and/or insurance than their employee does
Respondeat superior is essentialy to many types of personal injury cases.
How does respondeat superior work?
Respondeat superior is basically a protective measure. If there was no rule like this, employers would be able to shrug and say they didn’t know their employees were acting in a reckless manner. But because employers can be held responsible, they have an incentive to make sure their employees follow safety rules and use common sense. They also have a reason to carry insurance policies to cover personal injury claims.
But respondeat superior has limits. It only applies when the employee is at work or carrying out work duties. In the example above, the delivery company is responsible because their driver was actually in one of their trucks making deliveries. If it was a pizza delivery person who was driving their own car off the clock, respondeat superior would not apply. The claim would be entirely between the two drivers, not the employer.
What kinds of personal injury cases usually involve respondeat superior?
We see respondeat superior come up in many types of cases, but the most common are:
- Car accidents where one party was driving a company vehicle or driving for work purposes
- Taxicab accidents because the taxi driver always represents the company they work for
- Slip and fall accidents where a store employee failed to clean up a spill or repair something dangerous
- Nursing home abuse or neglect cases, because the nursing home is always responsible for the actions of its staff
Is respondeat superior good or bad for my Georgia personal injury case?
In most cases it’s good for your case. Employees may not earn much money or have the assets needed to pay for your injuries. Because the employer is responsible, you are much more likely to be able to recover the money you need, typically from an insurance policy.
Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.