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When Is The Car Owner At Fault For The Accident?

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Common sense would seem to dictate that the person responsible for an auto accident would be one of the drivers involved. However, sometimes the person at-fault is someone who was not driving at the time.

This legal quirk may sound shocking, but there are very logical reasons that the person who assumes liability for an auto accident can be someone many miles away when the accident happened. They may even be someone who has never even driven the car in question!

In all cases, the person who assumes liability but was not driving would be the owner of the vehicle. Read on to learn various reasons why a car owner would be liable rather than the driver, and how a Columbia car wreck lawyer might approach these cases.

A Parent Who Lets Their Child Drive Their Car

Many states have laws in place that make parents responsible for minors in their care when those minors perform acts of negligence or willful misconduct.

For instance, South Carolina state codes (S.C.C. § 56-1-110) provide that all parents who sign for their minor’s beginner’s permits, instructional permits or driver’s licenses must assume liability for any damages their child inflicts as a result of willful misconduct or negligent behavior while driving.

If the minor has their own liability insurance policy in their own name, they can deflect some of the financial costs from parents, but any excess damages may still fall upon their parents’ shoulders.

An Employer Who Owns a Company Car Involved in an Accident

Generally speaking, an employer will commonly assume liability for the negligent actions of their employee. This assumption of liability may encompass times in which an employee like a truck delivery driver or traveling salesperson is using a company car for work purposes and during work hours.

The legal justification for holding the employer responsible rather than the employee lies in the theories of “imputed negligence” or “vicarious liability.” Both of these concepts basically state that the legal relationship of employer to an employee is such that the employer is expected to monitor and control the actions of their employee, including how they drive.

A common example is a van delivery driver causing an accident and their employing corporation assuming liability.

Anyone Who Lets an Incompetent, Negligent or Unfit Person Operate Their Car

Sometimes, the act of entrusting a person with a car who is known to behave recklessly can be an act of negligence unto itself when an accident results.

This legal theory of “negligent entrustment” refers to instances where a vehicle owner knows or should have known that they are lending their vehicle to a potentially unfit or dangerous person. Examples include lending your car to someone who is:

  • Unlicensed or inexperienced
  • Someone below the eligible age to drive or carry a learner’s permit
  • Currently intoxicated, or highly likely to later become intoxicated and then operate the vehicle
  • Known to drive recklessly and in such a way that endangers others
  • Has a mental or physical condition that can make them unfit to drive

In these instances, the plaintiff must prove that the vehicle owner was either aware of these conditions or that there was enough information available that a “reasonably competent” person would have known about them.

Filing a Claim Against a Vehicle Owner with a Columbia Car Wreck Lawyer

If you have been injured in an auto accident with an employee, a minor, or someone who you think qualifies as clearly unfit to have driven a vehicle, you may be able to pursue a claim against the owner of the vehicle rather than the driver under certain circumstances, such as those described above.

You can pursue your claim against the owner’s insurer or the owner themselves more effectively by appointing a Columbia car wreck lawyer to represent your case. Use the contact form to the right to receive a free case evaluation from Harris & Graves and potentially start your South Carolina auto accident injury claim today.