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What is respondeat superior?

A collision with a semi-truck in Walker can leave you facing seemingly insurmountable expenses for both your care and recovery as well as the repair of your vehicle. These costs may make it necessary for you to seek compensation beyond auto insurance coverage limits. The question then becomes whether the truck driver that struck you is solely liable, or should the company that employs him or her be held responsible as well? 

Per the Cornell University Law School, the legal principle of respondeat superior states that employers can be held responsible for the actions of their employees. There is, however, a limitation to this form of vicarious liability: The actions that caused your accident must have been committed within the scope of the trucker's job responsibilities. 

What does this mean? Say that your truck accident occurred while a trucker was "off the clock" (e.g., driving to a place to eat or rest). In this scenario, it may be argued that he or she was not acting as an agent of his or her employer, and thus respondeat superior may not apply. However, if the collision happened as he or she was making a delivery, then his or her employer may be liable. 

State court rulings in Alabama have also placed further restrictions on the application of respondeat superior. The state requires that it be shown that an employer has reserved the right of control over the selection of an employee as well as how said employee performs his or her work in order for the principle to apply. That means that if the truck driver that struck you worked as an independent contractor, you cannot hold the company that contracted with him or her liable for his or her actions. 

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