Understanding Vicarious Liability for a Personal Injury

Delivery driver Vicarious liability is a legal theory that may allow an injury victim to hold a third party liable for an injury if the individual who caused the injury was acting under the direction, supervision or employment of the third party.

If you were injured and the at-fault party was employed or under the supervision of another party at the time of the accident, you may have a case against that party. Our car accident lawyers in Savannah offer a free consultation to discuss what your legal options may be. There are no upfront fees for our services, and we only get paid if you do.

Below, we discuss the concept of vicarious liability and when it may apply.

What Are the Legal Principles of Vicarious Liability?

There are two general legal principles upon which vicarious liability is based:

  • Qui Facit Per Alium Facit Per Se – This is a Latin phrase that means “he who acts through another acts through himself.” This means that a person acting under the authorization of another may not be liable for damages caused by his or her negligent actions. Instead, the person who authorized those actions would be financially liable.
  • Respondeat Superior – This Latin phrase means “let the master answer.” This means that someone with a supervisory role over another may be held financially responsible for the negligent actions of that person.  

Who May Be Vicariously Liable for Another’s Actions?

There are a few common situations where someone may be held vicariously liable for the actions of another.


An employer may be held financially liable for the actions of an employee under the legal theory of Respondeat superior. However, this principle may only apply in specific circumstances. Your lawyer would need to prove three things in a case based on the principle of respondeat superior:

  1. There was an employee/employer agreement at the time of the incident.
  2. The employer had supervisory control over the employee.
  3. The employee’s actions fell within the scope of his or her employment.

The scope of employment is generally defined as within an employee’s job requirements.

Vehicle Owners

In general, the owner of a vehicle may not be held vicariously liable for the negligence of someone who had permission to drive his or her vehicle. However, each state has different statutes covering ownership liability.

In Georgia, the Family Purpose Doctrine may be used to hold a vehicle owner financially liable for damages, whether he or she was driving when the accident occurred or not. However, a vehicle owner cannot be held liable unless he or she has the right to control who uses the vehicle.

There is one major exception to vicarious liability for vehicle owners. If the person driving did not have permission to do so, the owner generally cannot be held responsible for damages that may result. For example, if your vehicle was stolen and the thief crashed into another car, you would not be liable for damages.


As most teenagers drive cars belonging to their parents, it is logical to conclude that a parent may be held vicariously liable for an accident their teenage child causes. However, parents may also be liable for injuries not caused by car accidents. Most states, including Georgia, have statutes that impose liability on parents for their minor children in many civil, and even some criminal, cases.

Have More Questions? Call Us Today

Proving someone else is vicariously liable for your damages requires a thorough investigation and an understanding of the law, so it is important to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side.

Our attorneys are prepared to help you throughout the claims process. The consultation is free and there are no upfront fees, so there is no risk to you.