What is respondeat superior?

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2019 | Workers' Compensation |

You do not need to be told how devastating a truck accident in Alleghany County can be. After having been involved in such an incident, you are likely facing mounting medical expenses due to the care needed to deal with yours and your loved one’s injuries (not to mention exorbitant vehicle repair costs). Oftentimes the compensation provided by auto insurance simply is not enough to cover such costs. In such a case, you may be left with little choice but to seek legal action against the parties responsible for your accident. The question then becomes who should such action be aimed at: the truck driver who hit you, or the company that employs them? 

In many cases, the answer to that question is both. According to the Cornell Law School, the legal principle of respondeat superior (Latin for “let the master answer”) allows you to assign vicarious liability to an employer for the actions of its employees. This often holds true even in cases where an employee was acting blatantly negligent. The only caveat to the application of this principle is that an employee must have been acting within the scope of their employment in order to hold their employer liable. 

“Within the scope of employment” means more than simply being on the clock. In the case of a truck accident, the driver must be performing a task that is incident to their employment in order for respondeat superior to apply to your case. For example, if the driver hit you while in the course of completing a delivery, then it may be difficult to argue that they were not acting as an agent of the employer at the time. The same might not be said about a driver that hits you on the way home from completing their route.