Respondeat superior is one of many Latin phrases that is part of the personal injury legal landscape. Ultimately, respondeat superior translates to 'let the master answer.' It is a legal doctrine that is helpful to victims of injuries that happen because of a negligent employee. A typical scenario of a respondeat superior case involves an employee failing to perform a duty, and as a result, someone gets hurt.
Elements of Respondeat Superior
There are several key elements to a respondeat superior case. In order for a victim to recover he or she must establish the following:
- The employee acted negligently to cause an injury, meaning that the employee must have breached a duty to act reasonably and as a result hurt the victim.
- The employee acted negligently while working within the scope of his or her employment.
If a victim can establish these elements, then the company will most likely be held liable for the injuries. This is helpful to victims for several reasons. First, often times employees who act negligently do not have the resources to pay for a victim's injuries. It is an accepted principle of fairness that a company shares in the responsibility for its employees' negligent acts because the company reaps the rewards of the employees' good acts. And second, this legal doctrine helps give companies the motivation to train their employees to act safely, and create safe conditions at their place of business.
Examples of Respondeat Superior
There are many different typical respondeat superior cases. One of those typical cases involves the negligence of hospital employees. In one case heard by a Florida appeals court a nurse left a sponge inside a patient's stomach during a surgery to have his gallbladder removed. A few days after the surgery the patient sustained an infection and suffered pain as a result. As anyone can imagine, the patient wanted to recover for his injuries. Since the nurse would not likely have the resources to pay for all of the patient's pain and suffering, the patient sued the hospital. One wrinkle in this case was that the nurse was the doctor's and not the hospital's employee. But the court said that it did not matter, and it was an issue for the jury to decide. So the court sent the case back to the jury.
Another typical case of respondeat superior involves auto accidents. Increasingly we get our merchandise and other goods delivered to us. Of course, that means that someone has to deliver the goods purchased, and that typically happens via truck deliveries. When a delivery man gets in an accident because of his negligence, not only will he be liable for any injuries, but his company will be as well.
An Attorney Can Help You
The ways in which respondeat superior can come into play with personal injuries are many. The most important thing about an injury case is to have a competent attorney who knows when respondeat superior applies. The Pittman Firm is able to do that for your personal injury case in the Panama City area.