How Vicarious Liability Applies In Auto Accident Cases

Posted on: 16 March 2022

Drivers are usually liable for the accident their actions or inactions cause. However, some personal injury laws trigger third-party auto accident liability under certain circumstances. Vicarious liability is an example of such laws. Below are three examples of vicarious liability in auto accident cases.

The Driver's Parents 

Parental liability makes parents liable for their children's actions. For example, you may hold a teenager's parent liable for your auto accident damages if the teenager causes an accident. Parental liability is a form of vicarious liability.

In most cases, parental liability applies if:

  • The child is a minor (meaning they are under 18)
  • The parents knew or should have known about the child's risk of auto accident
  • The child drives the family car

State laws determine the circumstances under which parental liability applies. Some states also limit the amount of damages parents pay if their children harm others. Consult your lawyer to understand whether and how parental liability applies to your case.

The Driver's Employer

If you get into an accident with an employee, you may hold your employer liable for your damages. Many states use vicarious liability to hold employers liable for their employees' negligent acts:

  • If the employee causes the accident while acting in the scope of their employment
  • Whether the employee causes the accident with their private car
  • If the employee was both on a personal errand and employer's business

Consider a case where a restaurant's driver causes an accident while delivering an order to a customer. Vicarious liability allows the accident's victims to sue the restaurant for their damages. However, the restaurant is not liable for damages their driver might cause while visiting a loved one.

The Car Owner

Lastly, people often borrow cars from each other. For example, a friend may borrow your van to move heavy furniture. If a driver causes an accident in a borrowed car, the accident victims may pursue damages against the car owner, depending on the circumstances.  

Depending on state laws, you might need to prove that:

  • The driver had the owner's permission to drive the car
  • The owner knew or should have known that the driver was likely to cause an accident
  • The driver's negligence (and not something else, such as a defective part) caused the accident

Depending on the circumstances, both the car owner and driver may be liable for your damages.

You must identify the right defendant for your auto accident case to get the compensation you deserve. An auto accident lawyer can help you identify the defendant and pursue your damages.

To learn more, contact a company like Bradley Drendel & Jeanney.