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What is Vicarious Liability, And Why Does It Matter?

Frequently, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is not the only party responsible for damages. Some of the more common vicarious liability scenarios are outlined below.

Vicarious liability matters for a number of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, over a quarter of Florida drivers are uninsured. That’s the highest such figure in the country. Most people are effectively judgement-proof. So, if the tortfeasor had no insurance, victims must look elsewhere for relief. Vicarious liability gives these individuals an additional source of compensation.

Vicarious liability claims are often complex. Frequently, the responsible third party is an out of state company with a large posse of lawyers.

Employer Liability

The respondeat superior doctrine holds employers vicariously liable if their employees are negligent. This legal rule, which means “let the master answer,” applies if:

  • Employee: For tax purposes, only a few workers are employees. But for negligence purposes, almost all workers are employees. This label applies if the employer controls the individual to any extent. Examples include dictating route travelled or hours worked.
  • Scope of Employment: Florida law also defines this prong in broad, victim-friendly ways. Essentially, any act which benefits any employer in any way is within the scope of employment. Driving an empty vehicle helps the employer because the employer benefits from the free advertising.

Other employer liability theories, which often apply in sexual assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

Owner Liability

The negligent entrustment theory upholds basically the same principle as the respondeat superior doctrine. Negligent entrustment often applies in family driver cases (e.g. Wife drives Husband’s car to work). Owners are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they knowingly allow incompetent persons to operate their motot vehicles. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • No valid drivers’ license,
  • Driving in violation of a license restriction, 
  • Prior safety suspensions, and
  • A poor driving record.

Family driver cases are a bit easier for Orlando personal injury attorneys to establish in court, because of the family purpose doctrine.

Dram Shop Liability

Bars, restaurants, private clubs, and other commercial alcohol providers are generally liable for alcohol-related crash damages. Many states have abolished or limited their dram shop laws in recent years, but Florida still has one of the broadest ones in the country. It applies if the patron was:

  • A minor, or
  • Habitually addicted to alcohol.

Evidence of habitual addiction includes statements the customer made to workers (you’d be surprised what people tell bartenders) and prior purchases at that location.

The dram shop law also applies to packaged alcohol sales, like grocery and convenience store sales. Foreseeability, or likeliness of a crash, is sometimes difficult to prove. However, it is generally foreseeable that someone will take a few sips of alcohol on the way home.

Vicarious liability principles give victims additional options. For a free consultation with an experienced car crash lawyer in Orlando, contact The DeWitt Law Firm, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.

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