Whom to Sue in a Car Accident Lawsuit
Car accidents can happen without warning, and you may not have a clear understanding of what caused a crash at the time. Once you have received any needed medical attention, you should make sure to gather evidence to help show what happened in the moments leading up to the accident. While most car crashes result from some form of driver error, there may be other parties at fault that may not be immediately obvious. If you can bring more defendants into your claim, you may have a better opportunity to get full compensation for your injuries and costs.
Suing a Driver
The first place to look for liability is one or more of the drivers involved in a crash. A driver whose unsafe actions caused the accident can be held liable under a theory of ordinary negligence. This simply means that they failed to take the precautions that a reasonable person would have taken behind the wheel. In chain reaction cases involving several vehicles, multiple drivers may be at fault. Bringing all of the appropriate drivers into the case can give a victim access to multiple insurance policies. This can be critical because one person’s insurance policy may not be enough to cover catastrophic injuries to multiple victims.
Suing a Vehicle Owner
If the owner of a car allowed someone to drive their car whom they should not have trusted, and that person causes an accident, you may be able to sue the owner of the car under a theory of negligent entrustment. This is often relevant in teen driver accident cases when the teenager who caused the crash was driving a parent’s car. The key would be showing that the owner of the car should have known that the driver was an unsafe driver. Negligent entrustment generally does not apply in cases involving a stolen vehicle, since the owner of the car probably could not have expected that driver to be driving their car.
Suing the Employer of a Driver
If a driver at fault for an accident was on the job at the time, their employer can be sued under a theory of vicarious liability. This applies regardless of whether the employer acted negligently. For example, if you were hit by a delivery driver who ran a red light, you could sue the company that hired them, as long as the driver was not an independent contractor.
In some cases, an employer’s negligence may have contributed to an accident. You may be able to sue the employer under a theory of negligent supervision, negligent hiring, or negligent training, among others. Perhaps they hired a driver with a record of DUIs, or perhaps they imposed policies that created incentives for drivers to speed or drive recklessly. In other situations, the employer may have failed to properly inspect or maintain a vehicle. Any of these theories would require proving the elements of negligence against the employer directly.
Suing Car Manufacturers
Although it is less common than driver error, a defective vehicle or car part can play a role in a car accident. If a tire blows out, the brakes malfunction, or an airbag fails to deploy, for example, you might have a products liability claim against the manufacturer or other entities in the chain of distribution. A products liability claim usually is based on strict liability rather than negligence, which means that you do not need to prove that the defendant failed to use reasonable care. Liability can be established by showing that the vehicle or component was defective and caused the accident.
Suing Government Entities and Contractors
Poor road conditions may have caused or contributed to an accident. When this happens, you may be able to sue a government entity that was responsible for maintaining the road or a construction company that repaired the road negligently. Claims against the government usually must comply with strict procedural requirements and must be pursued within a shorter time window than ordinary personal injury claims. Damages caps also may apply to limit the government’s exposure.
Suing Private Property Owners
In rare cases, an accident may result from a property owner failing to keep their property in a safe condition. For example, a bush or tree may grow too close to a road, preventing a driver from seeing other vehicles or a stop sign. If your accident seems to involve this factor, you can bring a premises liability claim against the property owner. You would need to prove that the condition was hazardous and that the property owner knew or should have known about it.
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