With the majority of car accident cases, determining who is at fault is the main issue in regards to compensation and liability. Generally, this means that one driver’s negligence or reckless driving caused the accident and is therefore liable for damages. You might not be aware however, that there are some circumstances that you could be held liable for a car wreck and be sued for negligence even though you were not the person driving the vehicle or even in the car at the time of the incident.
Responsibility of one person’s negligent actions (in this case while driving) to another person can fall under Vicarious Liability, or imputed negligence. This type of negligence results when two people have a certain relationship. These could include employer-employee or parent-child relationships.
You should know the circumstances in which you could be held liable for another person’s action to protect yourself from being sued, or if you are in a car wreck and need to seek compensation for personal injury and damage to your vehicle.
Here are several situations when the law could assign fault (liability) to a person other than the driver of the vehicle:
Parents can be liable for their child’s negligent driving if they allow their child to use the family car in many states. This is due to laws and legal theories such as: Negligent entrustment-where one party (the entrustor), or parent in this situation, is held liable for negligence because they negligently (knowingly) provided another party (the entrustee) or child in this situation, with the vehicle when the parent is aware the child is inexperienced,incompetent,reckless,or unlicensed.
Then there is The family purpose doctrine– which holds the owner of the car (usually the mother or father) liable for damages to others when a member of the family is driving the vehicle ( regardless of permission being given or not).This is because the vehicle is owned for family purposes.The application of this law can vary from state to state.
The person who signs a minor’s application for a driver’s license will make that person legally responsible(therefore liable) for negligent driving of the minor in some states. In most cases the parent will be the one to sign their child’s application, holding them liable for the negligent driving of the child
Employers are by law, held responsible for the negligent driving of employees when the employee is performing duties related to their job. The law can hold one party liable for the wrongful acts of another party when the two parties have certain relationships with each other under vicarious liability.
So for example, if an employee of yours is driving a company car during work hours and their negligent driving (going well over the speed limit for example) causes an accident with another car you will be held liable for the damages your employee caused to the other driver and their vehicle.
Negligent Entrustment can also be applied outside of family relationships. If you allowed another driver to use your car and they are unfit to drive, and that person’s negligent driving caused a car wreck, you would be held liable for personal injuries and other damages resulting from the accident. With these cases it is up to the person bringing the lawsuit (plaintiff) to prove the entrustor (car owner)was aware, or should have been aware, the entrustee (driver you allowed to use your car) was not fit to drive (or incompetent) when the permission to drive your vehicle was given.
There are several types of people that, if you lend your car to, could cause you to be liable for the damages caused by the driver while operating your vehicle.
This can include:
Underage or unlicensed drivers
Drivers suffering from an illness that affects their ability to drive
Drivers with a known history of reckless driving
Elderly Drivers (if there advanced age has caused them to be unfit to drive)
Lastly, it is important to know that in some states the law holds the car owner liable for the negligent driving actions of anyone operating their vehicle. Unlike the previously mentioned circumstances, no special relationship is required. In states with these laws, when a car owner gives permission to an individual to drive their vehicle, the owner is responsible for negligent driving of the person driving your car.
In the event you are in a car accident make sure to follow these steps.Then you should speak with a qualified personal injury lawyer when deciding if you need to sue after the car wreck to seek compensation for damages caused by another driver’s negligence.