What is Vicarious Liability?

Paperwork stating vicarious liabilityWhen you live vicariously through someone else’s life, it usually means you are taking pleasure in another person’s adventures and other exploits. Vicarious liability is similar in that another party may be held financially liable for another person’s actions.

Vicarious liability could include suffering an injury due to the negligent actions of someone who was driving another person’s car or you fell in a store because an employee acted negligently, you may be able to recover compensation from the party that is vicariously liable for the negligence of the person who caused you harm.

Call our Sacramento personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation to discuss your claim. We do not charge you anything upfront or while we work on your claim.


Generally, a person is responsible for his or her own actions, including negligent acts. However, under the legal principle of vicarious liability, a party not directly involved in someone else’s negligent actions may be held financially liable so long as there is some type of connected relationship. Vicarious liability is based on the following two legal principles.


Latin for “He who acts through another does the act himself.”

This term means that when someone authorizes another to perform a task or knowingly lets someone borrow something does so knowing he or she would be held vicariously liable for negligent actions that result in damages to a third party.


Latin for “Let the master answer.”

This term means a superior is responsible for the actions of his or her subordinates. An example would be an employer being held financially liable for the actions of an employee.


For an employer to be held liable for the actions of an employee, the negligent act must have occurred in the course of employment, which was authorized, directed by, or otherwise connected to the employer.

To prove an employer’s vicarious liability, the injured party must prove:

  • The employee had an agreement to work under the authority of the employer;
  • The employer must have had control over the employee;
  • The employee’s actions must have fallen within the scope of employment at the time of the incident.


When defining the scope of employment, it generally means the actions of an employee occurred within the terms of his or her job description. However, the definition may vary depending on specific requirements for the position and type of employment.

For example, if a delivery, while delivering for a warehouse, crashes into you and you suffer an injury, the company that employs the driver may be held vicariously liable for your injuries because that driver was acting within their scope of employment when driving the company vehicle to make that delivery.

It may become even more complicated in cases involving an independent contractor, such as a rideshare driver who crashes into you. It would be in your best interest to work with our knowledgeable attorneys who understand employer vicarious liability.


Under the common law of vicarious liability, vehicle owners are generally not held financially liable for a negligent driver who crashes his or her vehicle into someone else, causing injuries and other damages.

However, under California’s permissive use statute, if a vehicle owner knowingly entrusts his or her vehicle to an individual whose negligent actions result in a third party’s damages, the vehicle owner may be held financially liable.


In California, parents of minor children may be held liable for any willful acts of their child, resulting in injuries and other damages, so long as the parent or guardian has custody and control over the child. There is a cap of $25,000 on damages, except in cases involving a teen driver who causes a motor vehicle accident.

There is usually no cap in these instances, and the parents’ motor vehicle insurance generally pays the damages.


Filing a claim in which a party may be vicariously liable for your injuries can be complex to handle on your own, as there may be several other factors to consider.

Fortunately, our attorneys have decades of experience handling a variety of claims and helping injury victims in California recover the compensation they need for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. The consultation is free, and there are no fees unless we win.

Call the Arnold Law Firm today at (916) 777-7777