When Is a Business Liable for Injuries Caused by Its Employees?
A person filing an injury claim usually wants to target a defendant who will have the money needed to pay. When an incident involves an employee of a business, the most common defendant for legal, logical, and financial reasons is the employer.
If you believe a company's employee caused your injuries, you may wonder whether the business is liable and how much so. Here are three ways a personal injury lawyer typically looks at this issue.
America's legal system applies a notion of liability that doesn't always require the at-fault party to be present when an accident happens. The most common reason for this is what's called vicarious liability. In injury law, this tends to cover cases where an employee's conduct place liability at the feet of the employer.
There are also some circumstances where contractors and designers may trigger vicarious liability for the folks who hire them. However, whether such people become defendants often is governed by liability clauses in the contracts they signed.
When an Employee Was Injured on the Job
Notably, the employee has to engage in work on behalf of their employer at the time of the incident. This doesn't mean they have to be actively doing something at that moment, though. After all, there are scenarios where the employee's failure to do something is the negligence that underlines the entire case. Instead, they must be what a reasonable person would consider "on the clock."
A personal injury attorney will note there are some off-the-clock scenarios where liability still extends to the employer. If a boss asked an employee to mail something on the way home, they may be liable for any incidents involving that person until they've delivered the mail item. Similar logic often applies if an off-the-clock employee was handling an errand for the employer, such as picking up lunch.
Duty of Care
Liability doesn't automatically kick because the employee fits one of the above criteria. The business and employee also must have a duty of care. Whatever conditions led to the accident must be ones that a reasonable person would expect the employer to want the employee to address for safety reasons.
For example, an incident in the work area of a garage probably doesn't carry liability if clear notice was posted for customers to stay out. Conversely, any area where the public roams, such as the aisles of a grocery store, would be a place where a business must take care to protect people from potential injuries.