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Car crash

Auto Accidents & Personal Injury

The following questions will shed some general light on situations involving third party liability.

Q. I was injured when my automobile collided with a truck driven by a delivery person. Can I recover damages from the driver or the employer?

A. You may be able to recover from both. Under vicarious liability, you probably can recover from the delivery person’s employer if the negligent act was committed by him within the scope of his job. Although the employer was not negligent, it comes indirectly liable for the negligence of its employee. Was the employee making a delivery when the accident occurred? If so, the employer is liable, since deliveries clearly is part of the driver's job. But if the employee first stopped at a restaurant for drinks and dinner with friends, the employer may be able to escape liability.

Q. Is an automobile leasing company vicariously liable when the drivers of leased vehicles get into collisions?

A. Probably. In many states, such companies are liable for property damage or personal injury caused by operators of leased vehicles. This is usually a matter of state law. One state supreme court explained the rationale: “...to protect the safety of traffic upon highways by providing an incentive to him who rents motor vehicles to rent them to competent and careful operators by making him liable for damages resulting from the [negligent] operation of the rented vehicle.”

Q. Someone recently stole my car and then wrecked it, injuring passengers in another vehicle. Now one of those passengers is trying to sue me. Can the passenger win? Am I responsible?

A. Probably not, since the thief did not have your permission to use the car and the court could hold that you could not foresee that your actions ultimately would result in injuries to others. In a few cases, though, courts have looked at whether your actions caused an unreasonable risk of harm to someone else. If you left your car parked with the engine running, for example, you might be liable if the car thief then injures children playing nearby.

Q. I was hit by a car driven by a drunk driver who was going home after a night out. What can I do, in addition to suing the drunk driver?

A. If you live in a state that has a Dram Shop Act, you may be able to recover damages from the owner of the tavern where the drunk driver was served the liquor. Such acts usually come into play when intoxicated people served by the bar later injure somebody while driving. But some courts say a tavern owner will not be liable unless the sale of the liquor itself was illegal.

You may also be able to collect from your own uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage for damages you suffered from the drunk driver, if he does not have automobile liability insurance

Q. My wife was injured when her car was hit by one being driven by some kids who had been drinking at the home of our neighbor. May I take any action against the neighbor, who supplied the liquor to the youths?

A. Possibly. Courts have imposed liability against such neighbors or parents when they have served liquor to minors. Parents can be liable for negligent supervision of their children. But as a general rule, courts have said that social hosts are not responsible for the conduct of their guests, unless the hosts routinely allow guests to drink too much or take illegal drugs and then put them into their cars and send them out on the highway.

Q. Someone attacked my daughter on the campus of the college she attends. May she hold the school responsible for this attack?

A. Your daughter may have a negligence action against the college. In a developing area of law known as premises liability, some courts have found such entities as universities, motels, convenience stores and shopping malls liable for attacks because they did not exercise reasonable care in preventing victims from being harmed. However, courts are divided on this issue and plaintiffs bear a heavy burden of proof in showing that the crime was foreseeable. The most important factor is whether there had been similar crimes in the location.

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If you have questions about an auto accident or personal injury case, please contact us for a free consultation by filling out our contact form or by calling us at (304) 574-2727. We look forward to hearing from you.