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What is vicarious liability?

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Vicarious liability, or imputed liability, is imposed in certain situations in which a person's negligence is attributed to somebody else. The person held liable for the careless activities of another person is usually indirectly associated with the negligent act.

Forms of Vicarious Liability

The principle of imputed negligence and vicarious liability applies in the following, very common, situations:

  • Vicarious liability laws exist in some states, which attribute a driver's negligence to the owner of the auto. Thus, if somebody borrows your car to go to the supermarket and crashes into another car, injuring the driver, as an owner of the vehicle you might be held liable and have to pay compensatory damages to the injured party.
  • In employer-employee relations, an employer can be charged with the negligence of their workers who have been commissioned to act on behalf of the employer.
  • In a joint business undertaking both partners can be held liable, even if only one of them has committed a tort.
  • In parent-children relationships parents are typically held liable for their minors' wrongdoings or negligent acts. This form of vicarious liability also applies to situations involving teenage or under-age drivers. If your teenager causes an accident due to negligence and injures another person or damages somebody else's vehicle, you will most likely be held liable for your teenager's reckless driving.
  • Under the so-called "dram shop law", the owner of a bar or a restaurant serving alcohol can be held liable for serving too many drinks to customers who then get in their car and cause injuries or damage due to DUI driving.
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