Auto Accident Claims: When the At-Fault Driver is Not Liable

After a car accident, one of the essential steps to take for insurance claim purposes is to decide which driver is at fault. Often, the at-fault driver is negligent, which is basically defined as not using caution or reasonable care behind the wheel, or impaired such as in a DUI case.

However, sometimes the person who is liable for damages caused in an auto accident is not the person behind the wheel. These types of situations are surprisingly common. Here are some examples:

When Someone Else Drives Your Car

In some states car owners can be held responsible for anyone driving their vehicle that engages in negligent driving and is not listed on the insurance policy. The actual driver who caused the accident is still at fault, but the owner of the vehicle and his or her insurance company may still be responsible for any claims. In the state of Florida, the dangerous instrumentality doctrine is recognized. This means the owner of a vehicle is liable for any negligent operation, regardless of who’s driving.

When Your Child Drives Your Car

There are several different laws, which vary from state to state, that hold parents responsible for their teenage kids negligent driving. Florida law states that parents can be held legally responsible for negligent teen driving or willful misconduct behind the wheel. This is because anyone under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian’s signature on their driver’s license, which signifies legal responsibility.

In addition, if your child is past the age of 18, any negligent driving that takes place in your car may still be your responsibility under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine.

When an unfit or incompetent driver uses your car

If you let someone you know is unfit to drive use your car, you may be liable for any injuries or damages if the person engages in negligent driving and causes an accident. Types of unfit or incompetent drivers include:

  • Intoxicated or impaired drivers
  • Underage or unlicensed drivers
  • Drivers who are too sick to function
  • Elderly drivers whose reactions are impaired
  • Inexperienced drivers, such as a person with only a learner’s permit
  • People with a history of reckless driving

The responsibility of the vehicle owner in these cases falls under a legal theory called negligent entrustment. In cases of negligent entrustment, the car owner can be sued, but the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) has to prove that the vehicle owner knew the negligent driver was unfit at the time he or she allowed them to drive.

The personal injury lawyers at Baron, Herskowitz, and Cohen know the ins and outs of auto accident claims and can make sure that the responsible parties in your accident are held accountable. If you or a loved one is injured in an auto accident, contact us for qualified help today.

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