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Respondeat superior: I was injured by the employee of a company – can I sue the employer?

September 17, 2009

It’s a common scenario: A truck driver for Company X is making some routine deliveries. The driver, Bill, is behind schedule, so he starts speeding and running stop signs, thinking he can make up the lost time. Bill runs a red light and hits Joan, who was proceeding lawfully through the intersection in her car.

Joan is seriously injured in the car accident and plans to bring a Texas personal injury lawsuit against Bill. Bill, however, has virtually no assets, and Joan would be unlikely to recover any damages the court would award her.

It may sound like Joan’s situation is hopeless, but a skilled Texas personal injury attorney knows that there is still another viable legal avenue to pursue: bringing a lawsuit against Company X, Bill’s employer.

Most of the time the law does not hold a person legally accountable for the action’s of another person. One exception is the doctrine of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior is a Latin phrase meaning “let the master answer.” Under respondeat superior, an employer can be held liable for the acts of their employees.

This means that a person injured by an employee, like Joan was, can actually recover damages for their injuries from the employer, even though the employer did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries.

There is no requirement that the plaintiff show that the employer was negligent.

In order to successfully establish a claim of respondeat superior, a plaintiff must prove three basic things:

  1. The plaintiff was injured as a result of the tortfeasor’s negligent act.
  2. The tortfeasor was an employee of the defendant at the time the negligent act was committed.
  3. The negligent act was committed while the employee was acting within the scope of their employment.

The requirement that the negligent act be committed while the employee was acting “within the scope of their employment” is key. An employer obviously isn’t responsible for everything their employees do. If Bill had hit Joan’s car while he was on his way home from the grocery store rather than while he was on the job, Company X wouldn’t be liable for Joan’s injuries.

In order to prove that the employee was acting within the scope of their employment (making the employer potentially liable), the plaintiff must show that the employee’s act was:

  1. Within the scope of the employee’s general authority
  2. In furtherance of the employer’s business
  3. The object of the employment

All of the Texas personal injury lawyers of Fears | Nachawati understand the complex doctrine of respondeat superior and know how to use it in the appropriate cases to ensure that their clients receive full and fair compensation.

Contact us today if you have been injured in an accident, and let one of our Texas personal injury attorneys provide you with free legal advice. You can email us at or call us on our toll-free number at 1.866.705.7584.




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