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What is Vicarious Liability?

The Cornell Legal Information Institute defines vicarious liability simply as liability that a “supervisory party” has for the “conduct of a subordinate.” In personal injury law, the legal doctrine of vicarious liability may allow the victim to hold a supervisory party—a party that almost invariably has deeper pockets—responsible for their damages. Here, our Stockton personal injury attorney provides an overview of the scenarios in which vicarious liability may be a factor in your personal injury claim. 

Four Common Situations in Which Vicarious Liability May Apply in California

  1. Employers

The most common scenario in which vicarious liability arises in a personal injury claim in California is through the employer-employee relationship. Our state has a well-developed legal doctrine of respondeat superior. Employers are responsible for the conduct (and misconduct) of workers. In effect, this legal doctrine holds that an employer is legally responsible for the conduct of an employee if: 

  1. The employee was acting within the ordinary scope of their employment; and
  2. The employee’s wrongful (negligent) act resulted in an injury. 

In some cases, an employee may also bear personal liability for an accident. That being said, individual employees seldom have the resources to cover an injured victim’s damages—especially after a serious accident. Taking action against the employer through a vicarious liability claim is often the best option for injured victims to recover full and fair financial compensation. 

  1. General Contractors 

Modern construction sites are complicated. If proper safety precautions are not taken, there could be a very serious accident. Workers and members of the general public (neighbors, passersby, etc.) could be harmed. Through the legal doctrine of vicarious liability, a general contractor may sometimes bear responsibility for the conduct of not just its own employees, but also of its subcontractors. These are complex cases. 

  1. Parents

The vicarious liability standard also frequently applies in cases in which a minor is responsible for the accident. In general, a parent can be held liable for the conduct of their minor child. For example, imagine that you were hurt in a distracted driving accident in Stockton. An investigation reveals that a 16-year-old was texting and driving. Their parents may be legally responsible for your injuries through a vicarious liability claim. 

  1. Criminal Associates

Finally, the doctrine of vicarious liability can also apply to certain criminal cases. This could be relevant in a personal injury claim if your injuries occurred due to criminal conduct. Under California law, direct associates of the criminal—others who facilitated the criminal act—may also be legally responsible, including for a civil personal injury lawsuit.  

Call Our Stockton Personal Injury Lawyer for Immediate Help 

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton personal injury attorneys are results-driven advocates for injured victims. If you have any specific questions or concerns about vicarious liability, our legal team can help. Contact us now for a free, strictly confidential review of your case. We provide personal injury representation in Stockton and throughout all of Central California, including in Sacramento, Sutter Creek, Manteca, Lodi, and Galt.