Respondeat Superior in Personal Injury Cases Explained

No one wants to be injured when they go to the grocery store or some other place of business, but if it happens one of the most important things that has to be figured out is who is at fault for your injury. Injury fault can vary in a lot of ways, but most states operate under a law known as Respondeat Superior

Today, we are going to explain what this means when it comes to your personal injury case, how it works to determine fault, and how it works in terms of recovering the damages you deserve for your case. 

What Does Respondeat Superior Mean? 

Respondeat superior is a latin phrase which translates to “let the master answer”. The concept has been around for ages and in modern law, most states have some form of this law on the books. The law itself is used to define responsibility in the event that a person acting on behalf of another causes harm or damage to someone. This law applies most often in personal injury cases where someone suffers an injury due to something an employee did. 

What the law actually means though, is that the employer or “master” has to answer or is responsible for any damages that are suffered. How this actually applies and whether or not this applies to your case will depend on several factors. 

Please note, we are going to be speaking generally about the law and how it works. Different states may enact the law differently or have different circumstances or stipulations that apply. 

Always consult with legal representation to determine if you have a case and help find out who may be responsible. 

Defining Fault Under Respondeat Superior

When you’re injured in an accident at a place of business the determination that usually needs to be made is whether an employee is the cause of the accident or if the employer takes the blame. This is what Respondeat Superior refers to. 

For example, say you are injured while being shown a piece of furniture at a furniture store. In an effort to show you how durable that ottoman is, the employee drops it and breaks your foot. 

Who is responsible for the injury, the employee or employer?  

Under the Respondeat Superior law, the employer is at fault because it was an accident that happened while the employee was performing their job. Though the employee did the action that caused the damage the law holds the employer responsible as the employee was acting on the employer’s behalf. 

The law was put in place to allow victim’s a better chance at compensation than if they were to seek compensation from the individual. This is considered part of the “risk of business”. An employee acting within the role they are hired for is not liable for damages due to an accident on the job. 

Exceptions to Respondeat Superior

There are two major exceptions to the rule that should be understood in the event that you are injured. 

First, respondeat superior does not apply if the cause of the accident was a third party working on the premises of the owner. The owner of a business is typically not held responsible if the fault lies with an outside entity conducting business on their property, such as a vendor for a store that comes to install their product, in this case fault would fall with the third party. 

Second, an employee can be held responsible if it is found that they were acting outside of the scope of their employment or in a malicious or intentful manner. In other words, if an employee knowingly and willfully does something that causes harm to a person that is in no one related to their employment, they then are held responsible for the accident and any and all damages. 

Be in The Know & Get Help

We hope that knowing a bit more about the Respondeat Superior law and its exceptions will make it easier to put together a case in the event that you are ever injured on someone’s property. 

It can be hard to know what to do next once you are injured but the first step should be to contact a legal professional who can help you build your case, get your injuries seen to and get you the compensation you deserve.