What is Respondeat Superior in a Virginia Personal Injury Lawsuit?

When individuals are hurt in a Virginia car accident, they often assume that the other driver is the only person that they can hold legally responsible. However, accident victims should not automatically make this assumption because, in certain cases, the driver’s employer may be held liable for any injuries their employee caused. This is called the doctrine of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior allows a plaintiff to hold the employer of the responsible party liable if the accident occurred when the employee was performing tasks associated with the scope of their employment.

Recently in Virginia Beach, several people were injured after a crash involving a horse-drawn carriage and a vehicle. According to a local news report, Virginia Beach police responded to a crash involving a horse-drawn carriage and a dark grey Toyota Camry around 1 a.m. Evidently, the carriage was traveling southbound when it was hit from behind by the vehicle. Three people were injured, and one passenger suffered life-threatening injuries. The horse also sustained minor injuries.

In cases like the one above, both the carriage passengers, the carriage driver, and the car’s driver may be able to pursue legal claims. In the case of the vehicle’s driver, he has the possibility to file a legal claim against multiple parties: the carriage driver and potentially even the carriage company.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a Virginia accident victim can pursue compensation against a responsible party’s employer. The doctrine focuses on the employment relationship between the employee and employer – and the control they have over the employee.

In Virginia, to establish a claim of respondeat superior, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) there was a definitive employment relationship between the employer and employee; (2) the employee was performing the employer’s business; and (3) the employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. This means that if the employee was not performing some task within the scope of his employment – i.e., a normal function of his assigned job – his employer cannot be held liable for the accident.

It is also important to consider whether the employee is actually an employee, or an independent contractor. If the individual is an independent contractor, which often gives a person more flexibility and discretion in setting their hours and employment requirements, the employer cannot typically be held liable under respondeat superior.

Because holding a company or employer liable through respondeat superior depends specifically on the facts of the accident and the employee’s employment situation, potential plaintiffs should contact an experienced personal injury attorney before filing their claim.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has been recently injured in a Virginia car accident, contact Robinson Law, PLLC. With years of experience handling personal injury cases, our attorneys will assist you through all the steps of your case. We recognize how important these cases are, and we will work to hold the responsible parties accountable. To discuss your legal claim – and who should be included as a defendant – call us today at 703-649-4500.

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