Liability for an Accident in a Borrowed Vehicle
By Casey W. Stevens
At some point in time, we have all allowed another person to operate our vehicles. Either because we needed a favor or they did. There also certain jobs that require people to drive company cars, trucks, and vans. However, if someone causes an accident in a borrowed car or in a company vehicle and injures you or someone that you love, who is liable? The driver or the owner? The answers are not always as straightforward as you might think.
Vicarious Liability and Negligent Entrustment
Vicarious liability and negligent entrustment are legal statutes that refer to the liability of a vehicle owner even if they were not driving at the time an accident occurred. Vicarious liability is the broader statute, and negligent entrustment is slightly more specific.
Negligent entrustment laws state that if you loaned your car to someone that you knew was a bad driver or underage, then you are liable for any accidents or injuries that were caused by their driving of the vehicle. This is seen with parents of teenage drivers who cause accidents due to their inexperience or recklessness, but the statute can apply to employers and their staff or even to friends who let their bad driver friends borrow their car. If someone is guilty of negligent entrustment, then they are automatically guilty of vicarious liability.
Vicarious liability statutes can also be applied even when the driver did nothing wrong, if the owner is aware that the vehicle is unsafe, but allows it to be driven anyway. This often comes into play when a company owned vehicle causes an accident due to a defect that should have been repaired by the company owner, but loaning a personal vehicle that the owner knows to have faulty brakes would be another example.
At the Scene of the Accident
If you are injured in a car accident, chances are you will not be running around the scene trying to determine if the driver who hit you owns the vehicle that they are driving. Let the police and the insurance companies determine ownership and assign fault. However, if you notice that the driver and another passenger change places before law enforcement arrives, be sure to let the police know.
The Total Liability Does not Change
Many accident victims falsely believe that they can “sue everybody” when they are injured through no fault of their own. While it is possible to bring multiple lawsuits all stemming from the same injuries, remember that in Georgia our courts operate under several liability – meaning that each party involved is only responsible for their own portion of an accident. The court will often assign responsibility percentages along with the total compensation award. For example: let’s say that you were struck by a vehicle owned by XYZ company that was being driven recklessly by their employee. Your claim is eventually settled for $500,000 but it is determined that the responsibility is split between the company and driver at 20% and 80%. The total responsibility cannot total more than 100%.
Know When You Need Help
As you can see, establishing liability doesn’t stop at determining which vehicle caused a crash, and personal injury laws (and particularly laws about liability) can be confusing. Contacting a qualified personal injury attorney like Casey Stevens after your accident is the best way to determine a course of action for receiving compensation for your injuries from those who are responsible. Call our offices today for a free, no obligation case evaluation.