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The Two Theories of Employer Liability in Indiana Personal Injury Lawsuits

In many personal injury lawsuits, one of the most important decisions that must be made is which parties to name in the lawsuit. Indeed, in many lawsuits, the at-fault party is not the only defendant named in the case. Depending on the facts surrounding the accident, the at-fault party’s employer is often named as an additional defendant.

In Indiana, when an employee’s actions cause someone injuries, there are two types of claims that can be brought against their employer. The two types of claims are negligent hiring and respondeat superior. While each of these claims allows an injured party to hold an employer responsible, they are very different and, in Indiana, mutually exclusive of one another.

A respondeat superior claim is a form of vicarious liability, meaning that it allows for an accident victim to hold an employer accountable for the negligent employee’s actions. The doctrine holds the employer liable because the employee is seen as the employer’s agent, so to speak. Thus, to prove a respondeat superior claim, a plaintiff must be able to show that the negligent employee’s actions were within the scope of their employment. Otherwise, an employee may be held individually liable for a plaintiff’s injuries, but the employer cannot be liable.

A negligent hiring claim is different in several ways. First, a negligent hiring claim is based on an employer’s negligence, rather than an employee’s negligence. In this way, a negligent hiring claim is a claim of primary responsibility. There are several variations of negligent hiring claims, including negligent supervision and negligent training claims.

Under Indiana law, a claim can be brought under either a negligent hiring theory or a respondeat superior theory, but not both. In a 2017 case, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an opinion affirming the state’s longstanding holding that “an employer’s admission that an employee was acting within the course and scope of his employment precludes negligent hiring claims.” That case involved a pizza delivery driver who negligently caused a car accident. The pizza restaurant admitted that the employee’s actions were within the scope of his employment. However, the estate of the accident victim brought both respondeat superior and negligent hiring claims.

In rejecting the estate’s negligent hiring claim, the court explained that Indiana courts “recognize that a respondeat superior claim necessarily involves an act within the scope of employment, whereas negligent hiring claims require an act outside the scope of employment.” Thus, since the restaurant admitted that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment, the negligent hiring claim was dismissed.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana truck accident, or any other type of motor vehicle accident, contact the dedicated injury lawyers at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse. At our Indiana personal injury law firm, we pride ourselves on providing exceptional representation to each of our clients from the moment we begin working on a case. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 888-532-7766 today.

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