Vicarious liability in road traffic accidents

The following PI & Clinical Negligence practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Vicarious liability in road traffic accidents
  • Liability of an ‘employer’ for a driver’s negligence
  • Does the relationship between the defendant and the tortfeasor attract vicarious liability?
  • Is the relationship akin to employment?
  • Was the tortfeasor an independent contractor?
  • Which acts is a defendant vicariously liable for?
  • Was the act committed within the course of employment?
  • Was the tortious conduct prohibited by the employer?
  • Was the act incidental to the employment?
  • Was the tortfeasor on a frolic of their own?
  • More...

Vicarious liability in road traffic accidents

In the past, a defendant would only have been vicariously liable for the negligence of a driver if the driver was acting in the course of their employment for the defendant. The law has developed significantly since then. If the driver was not an employee of the defendant, a potential claimant will now need to consider the relationship between the driver and the defendant and the connection between that relationship and the driver’s negligence.

Liability of an ‘employer’ for a driver’s negligence

Does the relationship between the defendant and the tortfeasor attract vicarious liability?

Whether the tortfeasor is considered to be an employee is often a straightforward consideration where a conventional employer/employee relationship exists by virtue of a contract of employment. The situation is less clear cut if, for example, the driver is said to be self-employed but appears to be carrying out activities on the instruction of the defendant. A variety of different tests have been adopted by the courts to determine whether an individual should be considered to be an employee but it will ultimately depend on an assessment of the employer/employee relationship as a whole and a consideration of the economic reality of the situation.

See Practice Note: Nature and operation of vicarious liability.

Aspects of the relationship that are relevant to this assessment include, but are not limited to:

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