Who Is Liable in a Car Accident, Owner or Driver?
Aug 15 2018

Who Is Liable in a Car Accident, Owner or Driver?

Who Is a Liable in a Car Accident, Owner or DriverIn the majority of situations, the individual who is driving the car is liable for an accident. But that’s not always the case. There are several situations in which the car’s owner is liable for the damage and injuries they cause in a car accident.

So who is liable in a car accident, owner or driver? In this article, we’ll cover situations in which the car owner is liable. We’ll also discuss what you can do if you’ve sustained injuries due to a driver who does not own the vehicle they are driving.

If you find yourself in a tricky situation with a negligent driver who doesn’t own the car they’re driving, contact the Orange County car accident attorneys at Russell & Lazarus APC.

Who Is a Liable in a Car Accident Involving an Employee-Driven Vehicle?

When the employee of a company causes an accident while on the job, the company is held liable. This is called either vicarious liability or imputed negligence. Both hold that if an employee behaves irresponsibly while on duty for a company, the company is responsible for paying out damages. It is the company who is liable in a car accident in a car accident caused by their employee.

Typically, companies that own and deploy vehicles while doing business have their own insurance policies. The policies cover any employee who is using the vehicle. These policies, however, do not cover employees who use the vehicles without permission. If an employee takes a company car and goes to the bar, later causing an accident. The company would not be at fault unless they were aware that their employee was doing this regularly.

Who Is a Liable in a Car Accident Caused by a Non-Owner?

Let’s say Joe his car to Bill. Bill drives Joe’s car into Sarah’s car causing injuries and property damage. Who is liable for this car accident?

The answer is Joe.

Since Joe is the owner of the car and Bill drove the car with Joe’s permission, it’s Joe who picks up the tab for any damage Bill causes.

Sarah sues Joe. Joe’s car insurance pays for both her injuries and her property damage. Hence ends the sad story of Joe.

Now, a plot twist. Let’s say Bill causes serious damage to Sarah’s car. Not only does he total the car, but Sarah’s medical costs are nearing six figures. In other words, Sarah’s damages go far beyond what Joe’s insurance policy covers. At this point, Sarah can sue Joe for the difference. Bill, on the other hand, does not have to pay a dime.

Vicarious liability means that Joe, who owns the car, is responsible for any accident caused by a driver he gave permission to use it. With this knowledge in his mind, Joe forces anyone who drives his car to carry “non-owner’s auto insurance.” This means that it will they will be liable in a car accident, not him.

Who Is a Liable in a Car Accident Caused by an Incompetent Driver?

Let’s say Joe owns a car. Joe lets Bill borrow his car to pick up some beer. Bill is not only completely wasted, but he doesn’t have a license and is under the age of 16. Bill crashes the car causing serious injuries to Sarah.

Joe is liable under the doctrine of negligent entrustment. Joe lent his car to someone who was unfit to drive. Not only is Joe responsible for Sarah’s injuries, Joe is also responsible for Bill’s injuries. Joe will likely face criminal charges as well for endangering a minor, providing alcohol to a minor, and facilitating a drunk minor with a car.

Other than being drunk, not having a license, or being a minor, there are several other reasons why a car owner could be held liable under negligent entrustment. Those include:

  • The driver was inexperienced. Allowing an inexperienced driver to drive your car is an example of negligent entrustment.
  • The driver is elderly. If you lend your car to an elderly person who later drives into a Starbucks, the law can hold you liable under negligent entrustment.
  • The driver is impaired by illness. If Bill suffers from sleep apnea, and Joe lets him drive his car, then Bill falls asleep at the wheel causing an accident, Joe can be guilty of negligent entrustment.
  • The driver has a history of reckless driving. If you lend your car to someone you know has a history of driving recklessly, then you can be held liable under negligent entrustment.

To Learn More About How to Determine Who Is a Liable in a Car Accident, Contact Us Today

If you are a car owner, you should only allow those to drive your car when you’re willing to cover the costs of any accidents they cause. What if you were injured by a driver who was driving someone else’s car? Then you are entitled to collect from the owner. A car accident attorney can help you with this process. Russell & Lazarus APC can help you recover damages no matter who is liable in a car accident.

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