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Can a Car Owner Be Sued for Another Driver's Accident?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

Most people are aware that car accidents commonly result in personal injury lawsuits.

However, most probably don't know that they can be held liable in a car accident lawsuit involving their vehicle, even if they weren't driving or even riding in the car at the time of the accident.

How can a car owner be sued for an accident he or she wasn't physically involved in? Here are a few ways it can happen:

Negligent Entrustment

Negligent entrustment is a type of negligence action in which you are accused of entrusting the use of your vehicle to someone who was drunk, reckless, or otherwise unfit to drive. This violates the duty you legally owe to other drivers on the road not to let someone who might put them in danger drive your car.

Parents can sometimes be held liable for accidents caused by children driving their car under the theory negligent entrustment; in some states, a similar theory known as the family car doctrine will apply. Under the family car doctrine, the owner of a car is legally responsible for the damage caused by any family member driving the car if the owner knew of, and consented to, the car's use.

Negligent Maintenance

Similar to negligent entrustment, negligent maintenance is a violation of your duty to other drivers caused by failing to properly maintain your vehicle. If you fail to take care of car and a mechanical failure causes an accident, you could potentially be liable for the injuries that result.

In some cases, if a lack of maintenance makes a vehicle unlawfully unsafe to drive, an accident caused by such a vehicle may fall under negligence per se.

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability typically involves employers being held liable for the conduct of their employees. If you allow an employee to drive a company vehicle, any injuries or damages caused by their driving may also be imputed to you as the business owner. Still, other factors may come into play, such as whether the driver was actually "on the job" at the time of the incident, or whether he was on a detour or frolic.

Even if you weren't driving it at the time, if your car is involved in an auto accident, there's a possibility you may be sued. To learn more, check out FindLaw's section on Car Accident Liability or contact an experienced car accident attorney near you.

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