What is Vicarious Liability?

vicarious liability in florida

Have you ever heard of vicarious liability? It is a legal term that refers to the responsibility of one person for the actions of another. In other words, vicarious liability means that an employer can be held liable for the actions of its employees. This can be a tricky concept to understand, so in this blog post, we will discuss it in more detail. We will talk about what vicarious liability is, and explore some examples of when it might apply.

Vicarious Liability in Florida

When someone is harmed due to no fault of their own, determining liability can become tricky if there is a 3rd-party involved. Vicarious liability refers to when a person or entity is responsible for another’s actions. It allows the truly culpable parties to be held answerable, directly responsible or not, and it most commonly applies to one of two scenarios.

  1. An employer may be responsible for the actions of a negligent employee.
  2. A vehicle owner may be liable for the negligence or misconduct of someone who drives their car.

Employer Liability for Employee Torts

Employer-employee relationships tend to be some of the most complex, legally speaking. One of the most common situations where vicarious liability comes into play is when an employee commits a tort while on the job. A tort is a legal term that refers to civil wrongs, such as assault, battery, defamation, or negligence. If an employee commits a tort while working, their employer might be held liable for their actions.

 The following circumstances must be established to place liability upon a 3rd party:

  • The injury occurred while the employee was working for the employer
  • The employee was acting within the course and scope of employment

Car Accidents

If a vehicle owner negligently entrusts their car to someone who neglectfully or recklessly causes injury to a 3rd party, the owner may be held liable. The critical factor in these cases is proving the owner permitted the vehicle to be used, thus shifting responsibility.

Common examples include if the owner knowingly lends the vehicle to a driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, without a valid driver’s license, or otherwise impaired.  

Other Examples of Vicarious Liability

There are many examples of when vicarious liability might apply. Here are a few common examples:

  • If an employee is driving a company car and gets into an accident, the employer may be held liable for the employee’s actions.
  • If an employee is working at a customer’s house and damages their property, the employer may be held liable for the employee’s actions.
  • If an employee steals from a customer, the employer may be held liable for the employee’s actions.
  • If an employee sexually harasses a co-worker, the employer may be held liable for the employee’s actions.

Exceptions

It is important to note that vicarious liability does not always apply. For example, leasing companies are not responsible for accidents caused by the drivers who rent their vehicles. Federal law shields car rental companies from vicarious liability, and federal law preempts a conflicting Florida law.

Additionally, suppose an employee acts with “willful and wanton disregard” or gross negligence when such acts result in injury or death or are not acting in the course of their employment. In that case, the employer will not be held liable.

If the employer specifically instructs such employee to commit a crime, the employer may still be held liable. However, if the employee is acting outside of the scope of their employment, the employer will not be held liable.

Is Vicarious Liability Neglect?

Vicarious liability is a specific legal concept, while negligence is a general term. Negligence can be defined as the failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or damage. In other words, negligence is when someone does not do something that a reasonable person would do to prevent harm. On the other hand, vicarious liability is when one person is held liable for the actions of another.

While vicarious liability and negligence are two different concepts, they can sometimes overlap. For example, if an employer is found to be vicariously liable for an employee’s actions, the employer may also be found to be negligent. This is because the employer could have taken steps to prevent the employee from committing the wrongful act.

Outstanding Personal Injury Lawyers Committed to Your Best Interests

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At the Fran Haasch Law Group, we have spent many years providing our clients with the clever and diligent representation they deserve in their time of need. If you were injured or harmed due to the negligence or misconduct of another person, rest assured our personal injury attorneys are willing to face the opposition on your behalf. Allow us to ensure your voice is heard, and justice is served.

To reach a representative who will address your legal needs, call us at (727) 784-8191.

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