Who To Sue: Understanding The Legal Concept Respondeat Superior

4 May 2019
 Categories: , Blog

When you are harmed, your first thought will be seeking medical treatment. At some point, however, you may decide that your injury could have been prevented and that you should not have to pay the cost of your damages. If so, who to sue can become important. After all, it makes no sense to sue the guy who stocks the supermarket shelves when a display falls on you if they have no funds to pay you. Read on to find out more about the legal concept of respondeat superior.

Let the Master Answer

Respondeat superior is a fancy term for holding the right person responsible for what happens under their watch. If you get hurt at a business, for example, you will want to identify the person who is ultimately responsible for ensuring your safety.

In most cases, the employees of a business are not directly responsible for making safety rules, the owner of the business is. The business owner is the person who hires those employees, who institute safely policies, who monitors the facilities, etc. Even if an employee made a mistake, and you ended up getting hurt, it is the owner who must answer when it comes to lawsuits.

Deep Pockets

The above term is used to describe a party who has the financial capability to pay money damages in a lawsuit. That usually means that the owner or board of directors of a corporation has more financial resources at their disposal than an employee.

Here is an example of how suing the corporation instead of the employee pays off. You are crossing the street at a pedestrian walkway. A UPS truck comes speeding down the street and hits you. You are severely injured and spend several weeks recovering.

Do you sue the driver of the UPS van? No, you sue UPS. They are responsible for hiring, training, and overseeing the drivers to ensure that they follow safety rules when driving. The employee must be on the job and performing the duties of their job before the respondeat superior doctrine is effective.

When Job Duties Interfere With Safety

In the above example of the UPS truck accident, punitive damages might be in order. This means an additional sum of compensation could be paid to you if you can show that the company is not only responsible for the actions of their driver but that their policies actually contributed to your injury. For instance, if UPS has a policy where the driver could be fired if they are running behind in their deliveries, then that may have played a part in the way the driver was driving.

Speak to a personal injury attorney, and have your accident case evaluated.