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Negligent hiring differs from vicarious liability in California

If you are involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, the question may come up as to how the truck driver's employer might be liable for the actions of that driver. Among the legal theories that a plaintiff can consider in this regard are vicarious liability, and negligent hiring. Although it can be tempting to allege both, in California it can amount to an "either-or" situation.

Vicarious liability: Vicarious liability can attach to an employer if the employee harms another person while serving in the scope of his or her employment. This doctrine results in an employer being liable, regardless of fault, for its employee's tortious conduct while in the scope of employment.

Negligent hiring: This doctrine is based on negligence in the sense that the employer knew, or should have known that the employee was incompetent or otherwise unfit for the work for which he or she was hired, and that negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's harm.

In California, if the defendant admits to vicarious liability, this has the effect of precluding a negligent hiring cause of action. According to the California Supreme Court, to allow both a vicarious liability and a negligent hiring cause of action at the same time would cause the employer to be prejudicial, because it would subject the employer to a degree of fault in addition to that which it has already admitted to via vicarious liability.

Negligent hiring can be a valid cause of action in some cases, but you must be judicious in deciding whether to pursue it or an action based on vicarious liability of the employer. A personal injury plaintiff's attorney who is aware of how California court decisions have impacted this decision can help you to decide which course of action may be best for you.

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Law Offices of William W. Green & Associates
505 S. Villa Real
Anaheim, CA 92807

Phone: 714-464-6903
Toll Free: 866-543-7598
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