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What is respondeat superior?

| Oct 5, 2018 | truck accidents

The devastating potential that semi-trucks and tractor-trailers present often means that the chances of you being involved in a minor truck accident in Springfield are unlikely. Such accidents typically produce devastating results, the expense of which can often exceed what an insurance policy will pay. This may leave you needing to seek compensation from those responsible for your accident. Yet does liability end with the truck driver, or can it extend to the company that employs them?

It depends on the circumstances of your accident. The legal principle of respondeat superior allows you to hold an employer liable for the actions of its employees. There are limitations to the application of this doctrine, however. These are evidenced in Illinois’ Civil Jury Instructions. In cases where you take action against a principal (in this case, a trucking company) and an agent (the truck driver), respondeat superior only applies when the agent is acting within the scope of their employment (and they are found to be responsible for the accident).

Consider this real-world example: you are hit by a truck on the freeway. It is later confirmed that the driver was in the course of completing a route when the accident occurred, and that they were speeding on account of being behind schedule. As completing routes is a primary function of the driver’s employment responsibilities, it may certainly be said that they were acting within the scope of their job. The fact that they were also speeding shows that they were liable for this collision, as well. Thus, both requirements are met, and both the principal and the agent can be held responsible.