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What is Vicarious Liability in Boca Raton Crash Claims?

by | Jun 4, 2021 | Firm News

Vicarious liability is not a term you often hear as a non-specialist. In car accidents involving injuries, it is important to establish liability before you can file a claim for damages. In most accidents, a Boca Raton car accident lawyer can help you identify the liable party and file the claim. However, determining liability can be more complicated in some crashes.

This is particularly the case when the issue of vicarious liability comes into play. It is important to understand what this doctrine is and how it can impact your ability to recover damages in a Boca Raton accident.

What is Vicarious Liability?

Vicarious liability is a part of the common law. In other words, this doctrine is not originally defined in a statute but has been a part of English law since ancient times. In modern-day personal injury cases, it is understood that the doctrine of vicarious liability applies unless a statute specifically limits its application.

The doctrine allows you, as a plaintiff in a personal injury case, to hold a party accountable for the negligent acts of another party. This is typically the case when the person who commits negligent actions is the employee of the other party. In such a case, it may be possible to hold the employer accountable for the actions of the employee.

When is Vicarious Liability Established?

Vicarious liability is not established in most car accidents, simply because an at-fault driver is solely responsible for the crash. To hold an employer vicariously liable, two key conditions must be met:

  1. You must be able to prove that the employee was working within the scope of employment when the crash occurred.
  2. You must also show that the crash occurred while the employee was carrying out work-related duties.

When these conditions are met, vicarious liability can be established. However, the actual nature of liability can vary from case to case. You will need to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer to see if vicarious liability is relevant to your particular crash claim.

What is a Frolic?

Frolic is a legal concept that is relevant to the doctrine of employer liability. It refers to the actions of an employee that do not fall within the scope of employment. So if an employee causes a crash during the course of a ‘frolic’, an employer is not vicariously liable.

To better understand the concept, consider this example: a delivery van is out to deliver parcels along a specified route. During the course of work, the driver of the van decides to take a detour and visit a personal friend. This constitutes a frolic.

If the driver then causes an accident at an address that is away from the employer-specified route, this will be entirely the driver’s negligence. In such a scenario, the employer can claim that the crash occurred during a frolic, so vicarious liability does not apply.

Examples of Vicarious Liability

Here are some examples of car crashes where vicarious liability is applicable:

  • A pizza delivery van is on route to deliver pizza and runs into an accident. If the crash was the fault of the van’s driver, the employer can be held liable. This is because the van and the driver were acting within the scope of their work and engaged in activities related to their work.
  • The driver of a private firm is on the way to pick up some guests for the company. If the driver causes an accident along the way, employer liability may be established.

Florida Supreme Court has defined some exceptions to the doctrine. Specifically, the Supreme Court has previously ruled that a rental company can’t be held liable for any crashes caused by the vehicles they have rented out over a short-term period. Other such exceptions may also apply.

Distinction between Employee and Independent Contractor

When it comes to vicarious liability, it is important to distinguish between an employee and an independent contractor. Under Florida laws, it is generally not possible to hold a company liable for the actions of an independent contractor. In the example cited above, if the private firm driver is hired as an independent contractor, the firm can argue that it can’t be held liable for the driver’s actions. On the other hand, if the driver is a proper employee of the firm, vicarious liability is easier to establish.

Hire a Reliable Boca Raton Car Accident Lawyer

If you have suffered a crash in Boca Raton caused by the employee of a company during the course of their work, it is possible to seek compensatory damages from the company. Here at Englander Peebles, our lawyers can offer legal advice and guidance on whether the vicarious liability doctrine applies to your specific case. Call us today to discuss your car crash claim with our lawyers.