Personal Injury and Respondeat Superior

b2ap3_thumbnail_car-accident.jpgAs you probably already realize, if you slip and fall on a wet floor inside a grocery store and are injured, there is a good chance that the owner of the store will be held liable for your injuries. You were on his or her property legally, you had the right to expect a safe experience, the grocery store failed to provide that safe experience, and you were subsequently injured as a result. The basics of premises liability are fairly straightforward. What if, however, you go to pull out of the store’s parking lot, and a delivery driver employed by the store crashes into your car and injures you? Is the store owner still responsible? Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, the answer is very likely yes.

Definition of Respondeat Superior

The concept of respondeat superior is a centuries-old common-law doctrine that defines an employer’s liability under law for the actions or negligence of an employee. “Respondeat superior” is a Latin phrase that translates to, “Let the master answer,” and allowing an employer to fill the role of master, as the word is commonly understood. The most basic application of the doctrine in personal injury claims holds that an employer is liable for any and all injuries caused by an employee—or agent—who is working within the scope of his employment arrangement—or agency. Respondeat superior is based on the theory that the employer maintains control of the agency and the employee’s behavior, and must therefore assume liability for the actions of such agents.

Scope of Employment

One of the most important considerations in any case seeking recovery under respondeat superior is establishing whether an employee was performing within the scope of his or agency. Sometimes, the facts of the case are clearer than others. For example, a nurse employed by a hospital administers the wrong medication to a patient, causing a severe adverse reaction. There is little question that the nurse was performing within the scope of employment. That same nurse, as she is leaving for the day, swings open a door and hits a man in the face, breaking his nose. The hospital’s liability under respondeat superior may be more difficult to prove.

There are a number of complexities involved with establishing an employer’s responsibility, including the agent’s adherence to company policies, the reasonability of his or her actions, and the duty owed by the employer to the injured party. Bus and transit companies, as “common carriers” owe their passengers special care, and are may be liable even when the agent’s actions are based solely on personal reasons.

A Lawyer Can Help

If you have been injured in an accident and you are unsure how the respondeat superior doctrine could affect your case, contact an experienced DuPage County personal injury attorney today. Call 630-920-8855 to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled legal professionals. We will review your case and help you take the necessary steps to recover compensation for your injuries.

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