Are Employers Responsible for Employees' Negligence?

Imagine a scenario in which you were injured at work because of a co-worker's negligence. Perhaps you were riding in a vehicle with a co-worker when your co-worker failed to stop at a red light and you suffered injuries during the car crash. Accidents like that happen all too often and, often, the injured worker is unsure about his or her legal rights.

Can your employer be held liable for the actions of your co-worker?

The short answer is "yes." The relevant legal theory is known as respondeat superior. In layman's terms, what this means is that if an employee is acting within the scope of the employer, the employer must assume all risk and liability for the employee's actions. For example, if an employee injures another employee in a car accident, the employer will be held responsible so long as the employee who was driving the vehicle was doing so for a task related to the job. However, if it is determined that the employee who was driving the car was doing so outside of the normal scope of the job, the employer may not be held responsible.

Below are a couple of examples that will help illustrate the difference:

  • Two service technicians are traveling in a company car from one company site to another company site to perform general maintenance on the company's equipment. En route, the driver of the company vehicle causes an accident and the passenger is injured. In this scenario, because the driver and the passenger were acting in the interest of the employer, the employer can be held liable for the driver's negligence.
  • Two co-workers carpool to a diner on their lunch break. On the way to the diner, the driver rear-ends another vehicle and causes a neck injury to the passenger. Because this accident occurred on their personal time and the co-workers were not acting on behalf of their employer, the employer cannot be held liable for the passenger's neck injury.

Negligent Hiring Practices

Employers can always be held liable for the actions of its employees that fall under the scope of the employer. However, in some instances, an employer can also be held liable for employee's actions that are beyond the scope of the employer. If an employee injures another party and it can be shown that the employer could have or should have foreseen the incident during its hiring process, the employer may be held liable for negligent hiring practices. Generally, these types of injuries occur from an employee who has committed a criminal act. For example, if an employer failed to perform a thorough background check or overlooked a particular employee's criminal history and that employee assaulted a co-worker or customer, the employer could be held liable for negligent hiring practices.

Getting Legal Help

If you have been injured on-the-job and you believe those injuries were caused in part or in whole by the negligence of a co-worker, contact a qualified personal injury law firm to learn about your legal rights. At Arnold & Itkin, our attorneys can review the facts of you case and help you determine your best legal options. We have helped secure over $1 billion in verdicts and settlements in 5 years for our clients. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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