Who Is Responsible?
The responsible party in an auto accident may not only be the driver behind the wheel. If you are involved in a collision with a person who was driving a commercial vehicle or running errands for an employer, respondeat superior may apply.
Respondeat superior, or “let the master answer,” is very often applicable in collisions involving tractor-trailers, garbage trucks, public or private buses and delivery trucks. But the doctrine may be invoked in many other occasions as well, even when a private individual drives a private car. In Florida, the elements of a respondeat superior claim are:
- The driver is acting directly within the scope of employment. A package delivery person must be delivering packages and a newspaper reporter must be out covering a story.
- The collision occurs during reasonable work hours. If a night delivery driver hits your car during the day, respondeat superior may not come into play.
- The driver is motivated, at least in part, by service to the master. Employees sometimes go above and beyond their normal duties in an attempt to impress their bosses. They may come in on the weekends or take work home, when they have no obligation to do so. The employer can be held responsible for the collision in these examples.
There are some other items you should discuss with an attorney as well. If the employees deviate from their duties – the delivery driver stops for a snack – respondeat superior may still apply in some circumstances.
For more information about respondeat superior and other theories of third-party liability, contact us today.