Basics of Vicarious liability by Charu V at LEXCLIQ


         Vicarious liability is a situation in which one party is held partly responsible for the unlawful actions of a third party. The third party also carries his or her own share of the liability. Vicarious liability can arise in situations where one party is supposed to be responsible for (and have control over) a third party and is negligent in carrying out that responsibility and exercising that control.

For example, an employer can be held liable for the unlawful actions of an employee, such as harassment or discrimination in the workplace. An employer might also be held liable if an employee operates equipment or machinery in a negligent or inappropriate way that results in damages to property or personal injury.

Essentials of Vicarious Liability

The essentials of vicarious liability are:

  1. There must be a certain type of relation between the parties.
  2. The wrongful act must be committed by another person.
  3. The wrongful act must happen during the course of employment.

Types of Vicarious Liability

When some person is liable for damages caused by the other person because there was certain control, ownership, or direction involved, then the liability is known as vicarious liability.

Principal Liability

When a person allows another person to use his vehicle to perform a task for the owner and while doing the task, the person causes damages or injury through negligence, in this case, the owner is liable for the damages through vicarious liability.

For example, A has a recent surgery and was on complete bed rest, he asked B to complete his insurance work by sending the papers to the company, A lends his car to B, during the drive, B had an accident because of recklessness, in this case, A is liable for B’s accident.

In another situation, after completing A’s work B used his car for her personal use and met an accident during the course of her work, in this situation A is not liable for B’s accident. This shows that the course of employment of the owner is necessary.

Parental Liability

In any case, when a child creates damage by taking advantage of the situation created by their parents, the parents are liable for the damages. The situations can be allowing a child to drive, or leaving a loaded weapon in a child’s reach. In the lack of parental supervision, the parents are vicariously liable for their child’s negligence.

For example, A is the mother of 10-year-old B, while performing the daily chores she was not able to keep an eye on B and B damaged the car of C. In this case, A is vicariously liable for B’s actions as B is the son of A and she has to keep an eye on B’s actions.

Reasons for vicarious liability

Several reasons have been advanced as a justification for the imposition of vicarious liability:

(1) The master has the ‘deepest pockets’. The wealth of a defendant, or the fact that he has access to resources via insurance, has in some cases had an unconscious influence on the development of legal principles.

(2) Vicarious liability encourages accident prevention by giving an employer a financial interest in encouraging his employees to take care for the safety of others.

(3) As the employer makes a profit from the activities of his employees, he should also bear any losses that those activities cause.

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