When you are driving your vehicle, you may expect to be found at fault for an accident should you accidentally rear end someone or inadvertently sideswipe a parked car.
These incidents, that happen when you are behind the wheel, are commonly associated with being found liable for an accident. But, there are instances when you may be held liable for an accident that you weren’t even involved in based on a legal theory known as vicarious liability.
Fault and Types of Vicarious Liability
When you lend your car to a friend, family member, neighbor, or anyone else, you run the risk of being held responsible should they be involved in an accident while driving your vehicle. This is the case for states that have vicarious liability laws. In these states, both the driver and the car owner can be named in a lawsuit filed by an injured party.
Even in states without vicarious liability laws, you could still be held responsible for an accident if you loaned your vehicle to an individual who is considered a bad or unsafe driver. This most commonly happens in instances deemed negligent entrustment, that is, a car owner who lets a known bad driver take control of their vehicle who then gets into an accident.
Parents can also be held liable for an accident they were not involved in if a minor child drives their car and gets into an accident. This type of vicarious liability usually falls under the Family Car Doctrine which holds parents ultimately liable for the actions of their children when driving a vehicle.
Vicarious liability is a confusing area of law. The idea of being potentially liable for an accident they were not involved in is hard for many vehicle owners to understand. Since vicarious liability laws often involve personal injury claims, a personal injury attorney should be consulted. They can explain the laws as it relates to your liability when you lend your car to someone who is involved in an accident with injuries.
Business owners are also potentially liable for accidents that involve their employees when driving company-owned vehicles.
Liability to business owners is usually limited to when employees are actually ‘on-the-clock’ and performing responsibilities that are within their scope of employment. So, an employee driving a company vehicle outside of their work responsibilities or to run personal errands may be solely responsible should they be involved in an accident.
Other Vicarious Liability Situations
If a vehicle defect causes an accident, the vehicle manufacturer may be found ultimately liable for any injuries. This is an example of remote liability typically filed as a product liability case against the automobile manufacturer.
Some states even allow lawsuits to be filed against officials if a poorly maintained roadway or road defect is ultimately determined to be responsible for an accident.