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Vicarious Liability in Colorado Motor Vehicle Accident Cases

by  on  Car Accidents & Motor Vehicle Collisions

In Colorado — as is the case in other states — injured plaintiffs in motor vehicle accident scenarios may not only litigate their claims against the at-fault driver but may also pursue litigation against the employer of said driver, if circumstances allow.  This is an application of the doctrine of vicarious liability (otherwise known as respondeat superior) and can help injured plaintiffs recover their damages in full.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in Colorado, you may be entitled to sue and recover damages from the employer of the at-fault driver, depending on the circumstances.  All injury claims have a deadline.  It’s therefore important that you consult with a seasoned Denver personal injury attorney as soon as possible, so that your claims can be litigated in a timely manner.

Deep Pockets

The value of vicarious liability to the injured plaintiff in a motor vehicle accident situation is essentially access to “deep pockets” for the purpose of recovering damages.

Suppose, for example, that you are injured in a motor vehicle accident by a negligent driver.  The driver has minimal insurance coverage, however, and limited personal assets.  As such, despite the fact that you have damages totaling $200,000, a lawsuit against the defendant-driver would likely only result in the payment of damages of up to, say, $75,000.

Now, if the driver was acting within the course and scope of their employment, then you would be entitled to sue and recover damages from their employer. The employer is much more likely to carry significant liability insurance, or to otherwise have sufficient assets to pay your damages.

Not an Independent Claim

Vicarious liability is not a separate claim against the employer in which you — as the injured plaintiff — are asserting that the employer has been independently negligent and therefore contributed uniquely to your injuries.  Instead, the doctrine of vicarious liability simply imputes liability to the employer for the foreseeable negligence of employees acting within the course and scope of their employment.

In a way, vicarious liability puts a substantial burden on employers, as it is not always within their power to prevent their employees from acting negligently.  From a public policy point-of-view, however, shifting the liability burden to employers is ideal in that it makes it easier for plaintiffs to be compensated for their various injuries (and employers are more able to bear that burden).

Course and Scope of Employment

In order to successfully impute liability to the employer, our Denver personal injury attorney must show that the defendant-driver was acting within the course and scope of their employment.  This can be somewhat challenging, depending on the circumstances.  Course and scope requires that the defendant-driver was acting for the furtherance of some business purpose, or for the benefit of the business.  Consideration is also given to whether a request was made to the defendant-driver, or whether their actions fit within their regular job duties.  Essentially, the defendant-driver must have been acting in a manner that is reasonably foreseeable by their employer.

Let’s clarify with an example.

Suppose that you are injured by a package delivery driver while they are in the middle of their workday, delivering packages.  The driver is clearly acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the accident — assuming that the driver was merely negligent, and has not acted intentionally in causing injuries, you could sue the employer.

On the other hand, imagine that the driver was not delivering packages at the time of the accident, but was driving home after work.  In that case, it would be difficult to argue that the commute back home falls within the course and scope of their employment such that the employer could be held liable.

Get the Help You Need From Our Denver Personal Injury Attorney As Soon As Possible

If you have questions or concerns about your Colorado car accident case, contact a Denver personal injury attorney today.