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Vicarious Liability: Definition & Overview

Updated: November 24, 2022

There can be a lot to know and understand when it comes to different types of liabilities and how they might affect you. In some instances, you can do everything you are supposed to, but if the other party doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, what can happen to your business? 

It can all depend, but this is why vicarious liability was created. Want to learn more about it? Read on to uncover how it works, its elements, when you might be vicariously liable, and more. 

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    • Instances in which one party is held liable for the careless activities of a third party that they were responsible for are referred to as “vicarious liability” circumstances.
    • Employers that actively take reasonable precautions to stop any negligent action on the part of their employees are more likely to escape vicarious responsibility.
    • Parents may also be held vicariously accountable for their children’s careless behavior, just as an employer and their employees.

    What Is Vicarious Liability?

    Vicarious liability is a circumstance in which one party is made vicariously liable for the criminal acts of another. The third party is likewise responsible for its own portion of the debt. Vicarious liability can occur when one party is intended to be in charge of and be accountable to a third party. But is careless in carrying out their duties and using their control.

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    When Is a Business Vicariously Liable?

    When an employee engages in illegal behavior at work the employer may be held accountable. An example is if an employee uses tools or machinery carelessly or improperly. If this causes harm to people or property, the employer may also be held accountable.

    Because it is assumed that the employer is accountable for the activities of its employees while they are on the job. And has the ability to prevent and/or restrict any damaging acts perpetrated by its employees. In these circumstances, the employer is held liable even though it did not commit the unlawful act. The business owner may take reasonable precautions to stop illegal activity. In this case, they may be able to avoid vicarious liability.

    What Is the Use of Vicarious Liability?

    The workplace is one of the settings where vicarious liability is used most frequently. Specifically when the actions, words, or deeds are carried out in the name of, or on behalf of, the firm. In this case, the company—the employer—is vicariously liable for the actions, words, and deeds of its workers. This is valid if a firm or one of its employees injures someone, whether on purpose or accidentally. A client, a coworker, or even a collaborative company and its employees could suffer harm.

    Elements of Vicarious Liability

    The following three crucial factors should be determined and taken into account:

    • Legal relationships between an employer and employee
    • Negligent tort that was perpetrated
    • Whether or not it occurs while on the job

    When an employee violates a duty of care owed to an employer but the claimant is unable to determine who committed the violation, vicarious responsibility may be established. Therefore, even in cases when it is impossible to pinpoint a specific employee as the cause of the violation, the employer will still be held accountable. 

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    Examples of Vicarious Liability Offenses

    There are numerous activities and negligent behaviors that have the potential to be harmful and for which an employer may be held vicariously accountable. They consist of the following, but are not limited to:

    • Copyright violation
    • Harassment by libel (sexual or otherwise)
    • Slander
    • Confidentiality breach
    • Bullying
    • Physical assault or intentional injury to others
    • Emotional abuse


    A legal concept known as vicarious liability refers to the potential legal responsibility one person may have for another party’s acts that result in injury, even if the other party did not directly cause the harm.

    Vicarious liability, which is also commonly referred to as imputed liability, holds that any party who has a legal connection of authority with another party is legally liable if their acts hurt the other party. There are many types of business insurance that deal with vicarious liability. This is known as liability insurance or liability coverage. 

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    FAQS on Vicarious Liability

    Is Vicarious Liability Strict Liability?

    Vicarious liability is a strict liability law that holds an individual (often an employer) accountable. This is for the torts committed by his workers as long as they occur within the course of employment.

    Who Can Be Held Vicariously Liable?

    Any employee that commits a tort “in the course of employment,” can have their employer be vicariously accountable for that act.

    Is Vicarious Liability Fair?

    Generally speaking, the law of vicarious liability is just.

    Why Is Vicarious Liability Important?

    The purpose of vicarious liability is to give wronged parties a sufficient solution. This is when the employer is more likely to be able to pay the victim compensation.


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