When Someone Is Injured Due to the Actions of an Employee, Contractor, or Third Party, Who Is Responsible?

It seems like a simple question, but determining the responsible party for an injury can often be incredibly complicated. It may be the case that the employee was negligent in some way or that a contractor or third party was negligent. Sometimes, there can be more than one negligent party.

What Is Vicarious Liability?

Vicarious liability is a concept used in New York law that means that one person can be held responsible for the acts of another. It’s most often used in accidents where someone was injured by someone else who was acting as the employee of an employer at the time of the accident. The victim would usually pursue a claim for damages from both the employer and the employee. It also applies when pursuing a claim against the owner of the vehicle responsible for the crash as well as the driver.

It can sometimes be difficult to identify who the employer of a person involved in a crash is and that is one reason an injured person needs to hire an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible following a crash.

What happens when contractors or third parties are involved?


Contractors are not employees. The company will claim that it is not responsible for the acts of its contractors as their business relationship doesn’t provide the employer as much control over them as they have with employees. Often, the victim would have to sue the contractor for damages rather than the company that hired the contractor, especially if the company did not own or register the at fault vehicle.

There are some exceptions to that, though. One such exception involves what is known as negligent entrustment. If it can be proven that the company was negligent in hiring the contractor (for example, hiring a driver with a history of traffic violations that could be dangerous, such as speeding or distracted driving) and the contractor is found to have behaved negligently, then the company may be liable.

Keep in mind that the rules are different when a person is injured on a construction site. New York law protects injured workers who are hurt as a result of lack of safety devices or the failure of a safety device on a construction site. A claim will be made against the owner of the property as well as contractors (other than the injured worker’s employer) involved with the construction.

Third Parties

Third parties are often pursued as the negligent parties in injuries caused on the job. Often, workplace injuries can lead to workers’ compensation claims with the employer. However, if a third party causes the injury, the victim may need to seek damages from them rather than workers’ compensation. Third parties could include manufacturers, retailers, or other suppliers of various types of equipment, accidents caused by someone driving dangerously, poor road design or maintenance, which is handled by governmental or private organizations, or unsafe conditions created by building owners, vendors, or contractors.

What Form of Comparative Negligence Does New York Use?

There are three types of comparative negligence used in different states across the U.S.

  • Pure contributory negligence. This is used by only a few states such as Virginia and North Carolina. It mandates that if the victim is even 1% responsible for the accident that caused the injury, they have no right to claim damages from anyone else.
  • Modified comparative negligence. This is used in the majority of states. It says that the injured person cannot be more than 50% or 51% (it varies by state) responsible for the accident, or they can’t claim damages. For example, Florida changed its law in March of 2023 so that if a jury finds a plaintiff to be more than 50% at fault for the injury, they are not eligible to recover damages
  • Pure comparative negligence. This says that even if the victim is 99% responsible for the injury, they can still file for 1% of the damages. For example, if the victim were found 40% responsible for the injury and were awarded $20,000, they’d receive $12,000 instead–$20,000 minus 40%.

New York is a pure comparative negligence state. That could be seen as good news for the victim, but it’s also why the insurance company for the employers, contractors, and third parties will work hard to push as much blame for the injury onto the victim as possible. That’s why working with an experienced personal injury attorney is vital.

How Is Negligence Proven in New York?

There are four aspects to proving a claim of negligence, all of which must be proven to succeed in court.

  • Duty of care. The person or entity accused of wrongdoing owed anyone around them a duty to provide a safe environment or follow the rules and laws of the state.
  • Breach of the duty of care. Those charged with following the duty of care and who failed to meet that duty. That could be something such as an employer or a contractor not providing adequate safety gear to a worker on a construction site.
  • The breach led to damage. This is the most important: The victim must prove that the breach of duty directly caused the injuries.
  • Damages. The injuries, in turn, caused damages, whether financial or due to physical or emotional trauma.

What Should I Do if I’ve Suffered an Injury at Work in New York, and There May Be Multiple Negligent Parties?

Personal injury law can be complicated, but sorting out the responsibility of different entities or individuals involved in a worksite accident or car wreck is particularly complex because of the potential for multiple liable parties who likely will point fingers at each other. The first thing the victim should do is seek medical care immediately following the accident. Get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible, even if the person at first feels fine. There are many injuries that don’t show symptoms right away. Left untreated, they can worsen and become dangerous.

Then call Greenspan & Greenspan Injury Lawyers at 914-946-2500 for a free initial consultation with one of our White Plains, NY, personal injury attorneys. We can walk through the specifics of your case to see where the liability is most likely to be and devise a strategy to hold the negligent parties accountable.

What should an injured person not do?

Do not speak with any insurance adjusters, representatives, attorneys, or management representing the employers, contractors, or third parties!

Their goal is to get the victim to admit to being at fault for the injury so as to avoid having to pay money damages. Insurance adjusters and representatives are very good at trying to convince the victim to accept a much lower settlement amount than the victim might be eligible for. Knowledge is power. Injured workers or motorists need to be fully informed of their rights and the consequences of their injuries before considering a settlement offer. Don’t respond to any communication from an insurance company until you have spoken with your attorney.

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