According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were an estimated 57,984 cases of aggravated assault in the state of Florida in 2017, and according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized due to a fall injury. Moreover, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 4,317 people killed in accidents involving large trucks, such as semi trucks, in 2016. So, you might be asking yourself “how are all the statistics related?” The answer is, all of these accidents or injuries can or are caused by an employee of a business, and these are just a fraction of the ways that a company employee can injure someone due to negligence.
In the eyes of the law, an employer is responsible for the actions of their employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior, which under the umbrella of vicarious liability in Florida, but there are very specific factors that must be present for vicarious liability to apply. Moreover, although the doctrine of vicarious liability is most commonly applied in the scenario of an employee who injures another person, there are other common scenarios where vicarious liability can be invoked.
What is Vicarious Liability?
The doctrine of respondeat superior specifically focuses on an employer being liable for the actions of a negligent employee, whereas vicarious liability is more broad in scope. As with most civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the necessary factors that must be in effect at the time the accident occured for vicarious liability to apply. In the instance where a plaintiff is suing an employer for the negligent actions of its employee, the plaintiff is charged with proving the following, according to the Florida Supreme Court:
- The negligent party was an employee of the employer when the negligent act occurred.
- The employee’s actions were under the control of the employer when the negligent act was committed.
- The employee was acting within the scope of their employment when the negligent act occurred.
Assuming all of these factors can be proven, you, as the plaintiff, can seek compensation from both the employee and the employer for the damages incurred due to the injuries sustained as a result of your accident, because the employee and the employer are jointly liable under the doctrine of vicarious liability. Joint liability means that both parties can be sued for the full amount of damages incurred by an accident victim, but if one party is unable to pay their portion of the damages and the other can, the party that can pay for the claimant’s damages will be ordered to compensate the accident victim. This is why employers, or their insurance companies, are normally forced to pay for damages in a case involving vicarious liability, because in most scenarios, it is the employer who can afford to pay for the damages you incurred as a result of the employee’s negligence, not the employee themselves.
Damages in a Negligence Claim Involving Vicarious Liability
Like most personal injury cases, the damages you can seek compensation for in a vicarious liability claim are normally confined to both economic and non-economic compensatory damages, unless the negligent party’s actions were egregious enough to warrant an award of punitive damages, which are damages that are awarded to punish the negligent party. Economic damages compensate you for things such as:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Medication costs
- Medical equipment costs
Economic damages can generally be projected with some degree of accuracy through evidence such as medical billing statements, pay stubs, medication receipts, etc. In contrast, non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify due to the nature of what you are being compensated for. Non-economic damages compensate you for things such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Vicarious Liability for Borrowed Vehicle Owners
Generally, vicarious liability can apply in many situations where a person is in control of or responsible for another person’s actions. One such scenario is when a vehicle owner allows a person to borrow their car, and the borrower causes a car accident. In this instance, both the driver of the borrowed vehicle and the vehicle owner can be held liable for damages you have incurred as a result of the at-fault driver’s negligent behavior. This is possible, because the vehicle owner is viewed, from a legal perspective, as having engaged in negligent entrustment of their vehicle to the at-fault driver.
Although both the at-fault driver and the vehicle owner are jointly liable for the damages you have incurred as a result of the accident, there is one very important difference between negligent entrustment and a vicarious liability case that is being initiated under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Pursuant to the provisions of Fla.Stat.324.021(9)(3), the lender of a vehicle is only liable for damages up to the following limits:
- $100,000 per person for bodily injury damages
- $300,000 per accident for bodily injury damages
- $50,000 per accident for property damages
However, Fla.Stat.324.021(9)(3) also states that the vehicle owner’s liability will be reduced by the actual amount of damages recovered from the vehicle borrower or their insurance. This provision structures the joint liability of the vehicle owner and the borrower in a very specific manner that can also change if the vehicle borrower is uninsured or has insurance with combined bodily injury and property damages insurance limits that are less than $500,000 in coverage.
Increased Vicarious Liability for Vehicle Owners if Borrower is Uninsured
If the vehicle borrower is either uninsured or has insurance with combined bodily injury and property damages insurance limits of less than $500,000, the vehicle owner’s liability is increased by law to a maximum liability of $500,000 in economic damages. Interpreting and applying provisions of Florida’s vicarious liability statutes requires a great degree of legal knowledge, and thus, should only be approached with the guidance and counsel of an experience joint and vicarious liability attorney in Miami, FL.
Joint and Vicarious Liability Lawyer in Miami, FL
Regardless of what type of accident you have been involved in, choosing the right attorney can set the tone of your case and have an effect on its outcome. 1800-Injured is a medical and lawyer referral service that connects accident victims with joint and vicarious liability attorneys in the Miami area, and we are ready to help you. Don’t wait to file your claim. Call 1800-Injured today.