Are employers liable for injuries or damages caused by employees?

Author: Michael C. Jacobson, XpertHR Legal Editor

In most cases, yes. Under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior (Latin for "let the superior answer"), employers are typically responsible for the actions of an employee, so long as the employee acted within the "scope of his or her employment" at the time the incident occurred. That means the employee was doing his or her job, doing something necessary for the furtherance of his or her job or following the employer's instructions at the time the incident occurred. That said, employers have access to protections to shield them from the financial responsibility for such injuries or damages. The most common form of protection is workers' compensation insurance, which shields the employer from direct financial responsibility for employee injuries. Remember to check state and/or municipality laws to determine how it interprets the "scope of employment" qualifier as well as local workers' compensation laws to determine whether a particular injury is covered.