“Frolic” and “detour” are legal terms that define an employee’s behavior when an accident occurs at work. It is important to understand the difference between the two because determining whether or not your employee’s behavior was job-related can influence your liability.

You may be liable for injuries or property damage that one of your employees causes if he or she is involved in a detour. However, it is considerably less likely that you will bear liability for an employee’s frolic.

Definition of a frolic

A frolic is an action that the employee takes in his or her own capacity that ends up causing an accident and injuring another party. It is not related to the employee’s duties and, in fact, may be directly counter to company rules. If this is this is the case, you are usually not responsible for damages that result from an employee’s frolic, even if the accident occurred on company property or injured another employee.

An example of a frolic would be an employee driving a company car for personal reasons and getting into an accident that injured a bystander. Because the employee was not using the company car for business purposes, it would likely be the employee, not you, who bears sole responsibility for the accident.

Definition of a detour

A detour is a little bit trickier to explain. A detour occurs when an employee’s behavior deviates from the instructions you give but not so far as to be directly counter to them. There is still a relationship between the original instructions and the employee’s behavior. Unless you specifically told an employee not to behave in a particular way in the course of his or her duties, you could still be liable for any damages that occur as a result of the employee’s detour.

For example, imagine that you provided your employees with cellphones and told them to use them to keep in touch while traveling. You did not specifically tell them to use the cellphone while operating an automobile, but you also did not expressly forbid this. Therefore, if an employee becomes distracted while driving by using the cellphone that you provided with the instructions to keep in touch while traveling, the court may well consider that a detour. In that case, you may be liable for resulting damages.