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How Does Vicarious Liability Work?

Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook

Many times when a commercial vehicle, such as a truck, is involved in an accident the issue of ultimate liability if the driver was at fault will also need to consider whether the company that owns the truck may share in that liability. This consideration is the essence of the legal doctrine of vicarious liability.

California law has long held that when one person serves as the agent of another, including working as an employee, then the person or company that directs the services of that agent can share in responsibility if the agent commits an act of negligence. The basis for this negligence is that the employer’s business can create risks as a part of doing business, and that it would therefore be unfair for the employer to be able to avoid responsibility for any injury that happens during the conduct of that business.

California courts have established that the need to provide for a better assurance that victims of negligent or even intentional acts committed by employees or agents can recover damages requires those whom the employee or agent serves share in liability. What this also means is that even employee acts that are purposeful and not authorized by the employer, the employer may nonetheless still be liable for the employee’s acts.

If you have been injured in your property or your person in an accident involving a commercial vehicle, your personal injury attorney can help you to determine what other possible parties aside from the driver may share in responsibility for what happened. California law allows for all defendants to be held liable for their share of fault if you can establish liability, so it is important for you and your attorney to identify all necessary defendants if a lawsuit becomes necessary.