Respondeat Superior: Holding an Employer Liable for the Negligent Acts of an Employee

One of the most important decisions that an Indiana car accident plaintiff must make is which parties to name as defendants. This decision is so important because it can have a significant effect on whether the plaintiff will be able to recover for their injuries and, if so, how much they will be able to recover. One reason for this is because most individuals do not have the necessary assets to cover the costs associated with a serious Indiana car accident. Indeed, even after insurance policies are considered, many Indiana accident victims find themselves with medical expenses that are far greater than the amount they can recover from the at-fault driver.

Any experienced Indiana personal injury attorney will explain that the best way to ensure full and fair compensation for an accident victim’s injuries is to name all potentially liable parties. This may include the owner of a vehicle that the at-fault driver was using or, more commonly, an employer.

In many Indiana car accidents, the employer of an at-fault driver can also be named as a defendant under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. The term respondeat superior is Latin for “let the master answer,” and stands for the principle that an employer can be held liable for an employee’s negligent actions, so long as the employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the alleged negligent action. Thus, the doctrine is particularly important in Indiana truck accident cases.

Of course, a primary limitation on the applicability of the doctrine is that the employee must be acting within the scope of her employment for the employer to be liable. A recent case illustrates the difficulties a plaintiff may encounter when attempting to prove this element of a claim.

The Facts

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident when another woman struck her car. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the at-fault driver’s employer.

Evidently, at the time of the accident, the at-fault driver was on the phone with a co-worker. She claimed that the two were friends and frequently spoke on the phone. That day, the at-fault driver explained, the two were not talking about work-related issues, and were having a personal discussion. Based on this testimony, the defendant employer moved for summary judgment.

The plaintiff presented the at-fault driver’s phone records, indicating that she had not spoken to her co-worker on the phone or sent her text messages in the recent past. The plaintiff argued that the driver’s testimony was not credible and therefore should the defendant’s motion for summary judgment should not be granted.

The court disagreed, and granted the defendant’s motion. The court explained that the plaintiff merely called into question the credibility of the at-fault driver’s testimony, but did not present any evidence suggesting that she was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident. The court explained that, even if the at-fault driver’s phone records reflected that she did not speak on the phone to her co-worker on a regular basis, that did nothing to prove that the at-fault driver was acting within the scope of her employment.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through an Indiana personal injury lawsuit. The dedicated Indiana car accident lawyers at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience assisting injury victims, and their families recover the compensation they deserve from the parties responsible for their injuries. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.

Related Posts:

Federal Appellate Court Dismissed DUI Accident Victim’s Case Against Concert Organizers, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, November 6, 2018

Court Determines Police Officer Was Not Entitled to Government Immunity in Recent Car Accident Case, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, October 18, 2018