What is respondeat superior?

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2019 | Personal Injury |

After you or a loved one has been in a truck accident in Atlanta, you could end up facing inordinate expenses, The massive size of semi-truck means that if and when one hits your car, the likelihood of you and any passengers suffering serious injuries or your vehicle sustaining extensive damage is high. 

Oftentimes, the amount of coverage made available to you through your auto insurance is not sufficient to cover all of those costs. In such a case, you may have little choice but to seek compensation from the party responsible for your accident. The question then becomes who is that: the truck driver or the trucking company that employs him? 

“Let the master answer…” 

The obvious answer to that question is the driver. After all, it was his actions that led to the actual collision. Yet could there be scenarios where the company that he drives for is also held liable? 

The Cornell Law School explains that respondeat superior is a legal principle allowing for the assignment of third-party liability in such cases. Respondeat superior is a Latin term that translates into “let the master answer.” Its application requires that employers take responsibility for the actions of their employees. 

Does respondeat superior apply to your case?  

Knowing if respondeat superior does indeed apply to your truck accident case requires a closer review of the circumstances of the collision itself. If the driver hit while in the course of fulfilling the duties of his employment, such as completing a delivery route, then you can argue that he was acting as an agent of the employer. If the court agrees, then the truck company employing the driver would be jointly liable for the accident, even if the collision was due to the driver’s own negligence. 

If, however, the driver was off the clock (such as returning home from a route or looking for a location to eat or rest), then the defendant may argue that their employer was not benefiting from their actions at the time. In this case liability, and the responsibility for any damages, would remain solely with the truck driver.