Fault is a significant issue in Maryland personal injury cases. Usually, the defendant in a lawsuit is the party that committed the wrongful action. However, sometimes, the defendant isn’t directly connected to the personal injury. One of such instances is where the doctrine of vicarious liability applies.
It is essential to understand the meaning of vicarious liability in Maryland. Knowing this principle can help you determine the right defendants in your injury claim. Furthermore, it’ll be best to retain a Maryland personal injury attorney after an accident because they know when best to apply this principle.
What is Vicarious Liability?
Vicarious liability is also known as the doctrine of respondeat superior. This Latin maxim means “let the superior make the answer.” This legal principle refers to situations where the law holds a superior responsible for the wrongful actions of their “servants.” Here, an employer is legally responsible for the negligent actions of an employee.
Furthermore, it is also a law of agency; it holds a principal legally liable for their agent’s actions. For employment cases, the employer can only be liable where the worker acted “within the scope or in the course of their employment.” This typically means that the employee must have been on official business when they did the wrongful act. Therefore, where the worker was on a personal frolic, the employer would be free.
Often, the law also requires that the servant has the actual or implied authority of the master. Finally, even if the master was ignorant of the action, they may have ratified it subsequently when they had full knowledge of the facts. This principle is applicable in most American states, including Maryland.
Vicarious Liability in Auto Accident Cases
If you’re in an auto crash, you can sue the fault driver’s employer. For instance, in a truck accident, you may sue the trucking company. However, this isn’t always the case. In Maryland, vicarious liability has a narrower application in vehicle accident claims to prevent injustice. Therefore, an employer can only be responsible for a car crash the employee causes where:
- The employer expressly or implied agreement to the use of the vehicle; and
- The employer had express or implied control over the employee’s use of the car
If these two factors are absent, it doesn’t matter whether the worker was acting “in the course of employment.” These would include cases where the employee is merely driving to and fro work.
Vicarious Liability in Medical Malpractice Cases
A hospital may also be liable for the negligence of doctors and other staff. However, the plaintiff must prove that the medical personnel acted as agents, servants, or employees of the hospital. So, the hospital cannot be liable for negligent acts of non-employees.
The doctrine of apparent agency can help a plaintiff in medical cases. This principle holds the hospital liable where the principal by words or actions led the injured party to believe that the negligent agent acted on behalf of the principal. The injured party must have more than a mere suspicion of such agency to succeed in court.
Advantages of Suing an Employer
At some point, you and your attorney may have to choose between suing the direct wrongdoer or their employer. It may be best to sue the employer because of the merits of vicarious liability. Firstly, even if you win the personal injury lawsuit, the actual fault party may not have the money to pay. If this happens, you’ll have a judgment debt you can’t collect.
However, the employer will most likely have enough funds to pay your compensation. Furthermore, an employer may have insurance covering such accidents and resulting claims. If so, neither they nor their servant may incur any out-of-pocket expenses to pay your claim.
Maryland Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help You Determine Responsibility
Have you been in an accident? Are you confused about who to sue for your injuries? If yes, then it’ll be best to contact the best Maryland injury lawyers. Knowing when to sue a defendant’s employer can be challenging. There are many issues to consider which may be too complex for a layperson. That’s why it’s always best to speak to an attorney.
Furthermore, an employer will be buoyant enough to hire an excellent attorney too. However, our team at Pinder Plotkin has extensive experience representing accident victims in Maryland. We can bring all this experience to bear in proceeding against a wrongdoer’s employer. So, it would be best to call our law offices today for a FREE consultation on your case.