Is the Car Owner Always at Fault for the Accident?

Young woman driving a car and using mobile phone, texting, dangereously towards accident

Determining fault in a car accident is always tricky business. But this is never truer than when the owner of the car wasn’t in the car at the time of the accident. Your car wreck lawyer will be able to help determine whether you will be found at fault even if you weren’t driving at the time of the accident. Generally, a negligent driver will be found at fault for a car accident, but let’s examine a few exceptions.

Employees Driving Your Car

Employers are legally responsible for wrongful acts when an employee commits them while the employee is on the clock or performing job duties. This includes negligent driving. This is because of “vicarious liability,” which holds that one party can be legally responsible for another’s misconduct if the two parties have a certain relationship. For example, if your employee was driving a company car during work hours and runs a red light and injures another individual, you as the employer would be held responsible for covering the damages.

Letting a Friend Drive Your Car

In some states, if someone has been given permission to drive your car, you will be held legally responsible for any negligent driving they do, as you are the car’s owner. Unlike other states that require you to have a relationship such as employer-employee to be held liable, these states hold you responsible as soon as you give someone permission to use your vehicle.

Your Kids Get Into an Accident

Many states hold parents liable for their children’s negligent driving choices if they let the kid drive a family car. One reason for this is the idea of negligent entrustment: by knowingly letting your child drive your car even though they may be incompetent, reckless, or inexperienced, you are claiming liability for the damage their driving may cause.

Other states have adopted the “family purpose” doctrine, which holds that the person who owns a car that’s for general use by the whole family, that owner—typically mom or dad—is held liable for any negligent driving by any member of the family as pertaining to that family car. And, in other states, the person who signed a minor’s driver’s license application will be held responsible for his or her driving.

Letting an Unfit Driver Behind the Wheel

If you lend your car to someone who is reckless, incompetent, or otherwise an unfit driver, you are assuming liability for damages caused by a potential accident. This falls under the same idea of negligent entrustment that often holds parents responsible for their children’s driving. In these cases, the plaintiff, or person bringing about the lawsuit, will have to somehow prove that you, the car owner and legal defendant, somehow knew that the person was unfit to drive your car and allowed them permission to do so anyway.

A car wreck lawyer will be able to give you the best information about circumstances that would determine a driver to be unfit to lend a car to. If someone has been involved in an accident in your vehicle and you weren’t behind the wheel at the time, you need an experienced car wreck lawyer by your side. Contact the law offices of Peter N. Davis and Associates, LLC today.