What is Vicarious Liability and Why Does it Matter?
Vicarious liability, or third-party liability, creates an additional recovery source in a car crash claim. That extra source is very important, especially in catastrophic (life-threatening) claims. Texas has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country, and most people only buy minimum coverage. If Joe’s damages are $100,000 and Tom only has a $50,000 policy, Joe could be left holding the bag for the other 50k.
A Sugar Land car accident lawyer uses one of the third-party liability theories discussed below to fill in this gap. Civil vicarious liability is similar to criminal conspiracy liability. The guy who drove the getaway car is just as guilty as the guy who robbed the bank and shot a clerk. Similarly, if an employer or other person or entity contributes to a crash, that third party is liable for damages along with the tortfeasor (negligent driver).
Alcohol Provider Liability
Texas has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country and one of the broadest dram shop laws in the nation. Commercial alcohol providers, mostly restaurants and bars, are vicariously liable for car crash and other damages, like assault and battery injuries, if they illegally sell alcohol to patrons who later cause alcohol-related injuries.
Sales to obviously intoxicated people are the most common illegal sales in Texas. Although they often claim otherwise, many commercial establishments would rather keep selling alcohol than ensure that people get home safely. A Missouri City personal injury lawyer often uses physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, to prove intoxication at the time of sale. Other evidence, like previous purchases, is relevant as well.
Other illegal sales include unlicensed and underage sales. Some tried-and-true excuses, like “s/he had a fake ID,” usually don’t hold up in court.
Truck driver, bus driver, Uber driver, and other commercial operator cases usually involve the respondeat superior doctrine. This rule holds employers legally responsible for damages if the tortfeasor was an employee who was working in the course and scope of employment at the time.
We mentioned Uber drivers above. These drivers are independent contractors for most purposes. But they’re employees for negligence purposes. Any amount of company control makes a worker an employee. Uber monitors driver ratings, tells drivers who to pick up, tells drivers where to take passengers, and tells drivers how to reach their destinations.
Furthermore, actions that benefit employers are within the scope of employment. For example, if Mary breaks her ankle at a company softball game, that injury probably had nothing to do with her job requirements. But her employer benefited. Happy and healthy employees are more productive and less expensive employees.
Generally, owners are liable for damages if they knowingly let incompetent drivers borrow their vehicles, and those drivers cause crashes. Evidence of incompetence includes a safety-suspended drivers’ license and driving in violation of a license restriction (e.g. no night driving).
Texas law sharply limits negligent entrustment owner liability. The Lone Star State doesn’t have a family purpose law, making it harder to hold parents liable for damages if their children cause car crashes. Texas also doesn’t have a vicarious liability law, making it difficult to hold the company responsible for Enterprise, U-Haul, and other rented vehicle crashes.
But Texas courts do recognize the basic negligent entrustment doctrine. Usually, attorneys just need additional evidence to establish third-party liability in these cases.
R each Out to a Dedicated Harris County Attorney
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Missouri City, contact the Henrietta Ezeoke Law Firm. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.