Is the Driver at Fault for an Accident, or the Owner of the Car?

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    If you learn after an accident that the driver doesn’t own the car they hit you with, what does that mean for your recovery? Depending on the case, both the driver and the registered owner could share fault.

    Car owners might be liable for accidents they did not cause due to negligent entrustment or vicarious liability. For example, a trucking company could be liable for an accident caused by one of its employees. Sometimes, car owners are not liable for accidents, such as when their vehicles are stolen or taken without authorization. While car owners and drivers might share fault for accidents, so might victims. Being comparatively negligent could lessen the damages you ultimately walk away with, which is why anticipating such defenses and strategically overcoming them is important.

    The Reiff Law Firm’s Philadelphia car accident lawyers can review your case for free if you call (215) 709-6940 today.

    When is the Owner of a Car Liable for an Accident?

    While we often automatically assume that the person driving a car is the only one responsible for an accident they cause, the car’s registered owner might share liability.

    Negligent entrustment, or allowing someone irresponsible and reckless to drive a car they own, could make a registered owner liable for an accident. For example, if a car owner lets a drunk person take their car, and that person causes an accident, the victim could file a claim against the registered owner.

    Some car owners might try to evade liability due to negligent entrustment by claiming they were unaware of a driver’s reckless history. In such instances, it will be important to show that the owner should have reasonably known about the driver’s experience or asked questions before handing over their keys.

    Car owners might also be liable for work-related motor vehicle accidents. For example, if a negligent commercial truck driver struck you, their employer could be responsible for covering some or all of your damages due to vicarious liability.

    Suppose the person who injured you does not own the car they injured you with. In that case, our attorneys will investigate further to determine if the registered owner acted negligently or irresponsibly in any way, contributing to or ultimately causing the accident. For example, if a car owner lent their vehicle to a friend, but the vehicle was poorly maintained, leading to an accident, the owner might be liable.

    That said, car owners are not automatically financially liable for a victim’s damages caused by another driver. For example, the owner might not be liable if the car was stolen or taken without the owner’s permission.

    If you cannot collect all the necessary information at the accident scene, we can get the registered owner’s information from the police report.

    What if the Car Owner and the Driver Share Fault for an Accident?

    Regardless of who is liable for your injuries, our attorneys can help you hold them accountable. If both the car owner and the driver share fault, we can help you navigate that situation, which might become even more complicated depending on your state’s approach to fault for auto accidents.

    For example, in no-fault or choice no-fault insurance states like Pennsylvania, who is at fault might only matter in cases of serious injury. If victims do not meet the serious injury threshold, they cannot file a lawsuit against any negligent party. Instead, they would file a claim with their personal injury protection insurance.

    If you live in a fault state or your injuries permit you to sue according to your state’s serious injury threshold, our car accident lawyers can properly allocate fault to the driver and the vehicle owner. Depending on the exact circumstances of the accident, you might have a claim against both parties or only one. Regardless, divvying up fault quickly will be important, as you may only have a few short years to file your car accident lawsuit, depending on your state’s statute of limitations for such claims.

    Whether your claim is against the car owner, the driver, or both parties, you can request compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. Our attorneys can calculate your losses from the accident by carefully and strategically documenting damages from medical expenses, missed income, and other losses.

    Can Drivers, Car Owners, and Victims Share Fault for Accidents?

    Things might get even more complicated if a defendant questions a victim’s involvement in an accident. Our attorneys can prepare for this possibility and make a plan for how to address it.

    States have different rules regarding comparative and contributory negligence. For example, Pennsylvania is a modified comparative fault state. Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 7102, a victim’s damages will be reduced proportionally to their percentage of fault. Furthermore, victims cannot sue for damages if they are more at fault than the defendant or defendants. The statute goes on to say that, in cases against multiple defendants, each defendant is responsible for paying their portion of the victim’s damages.

    So, if both the car’s registered owner and the driver share fault, the jury will assign a percentage of blame to each party, and each party will be responsible for paying that portion of your damages.

    When a victim’s negligence is questioned, their compensation might get lowered. Furthermore, in pure contributory fault states, being even remotely liable for an accident could bar victims from recovering any damages whatsoever.

    When dealing with complex cases involving multiple defendants or complicated circumstances, our lawyers can anticipate comparative fault defenses and prepare arguments and evidence to undermine such assertions. For example, if the defendant tries to say you were speeding at the time of the accident, we can interview witnesses to get statements contradicting those claims.

    Call Our Lawyers About Your Car Accident Lawsuit Now

    Call The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940 to get a free case analysis from our Abington, PA car accident lawyers.

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    Philadelphia, PA 19102
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