4 Situations When a Third Party is Liable in a Car Accident

Like it or not, you could be liable for a car accident even if you weren’t driving. To fully understand the implications of your responsibility, you need to take a look at your state laws, your insurance policy and the details of the incident. Here are 4 situations in which a third party can be held liable in a car accident lawsuit:

  1. Employers, You’re Responsible for Your Employees

    Employers allowing employees to drive company vehicles are responsible for incidents that occur during work hours and while employees are performing occupational duties. Outside of those criteria, the employee is held responsible. In some car accidents cases involving a state, county or city employee during the course of their employment, a government entity may also be sued for damages.

    The employee does not have to be driving a company car. An employee who is driving a personal car, but who is nevertheless acting within the course and scope of their employment, is still the employer’s responsibility. The focus on the analysis is whether they were within the course and scope of their employment.

    Employers should take heed of this liability and only hire drivers who are qualified to drive company vehicles. Taking these considerations into the hiring process will help businesses employ responsible drivers and avoid vicarious liability or imputed negligence claims.

  2. Parents, You’re Responsible for Your Children

    Parents who allow their children to drive do so with the risk of being liable in situations that involve car accidents while the minor is driving. States approach this issue in various ways; however, the most common laws look at who signed the minor’s driver’s license application, family purpose doctrine and negligent entrustment.

    1. If you’re name is on a minor’s driver’s license application, you could be liable for car accidents that involve the represented minor. In most cases, the signee is the parent. Therefore, if your child is driving in a state that enforces this measure, be aware that you will be responsible for motor vehicle accidents.

    2. Family purpose doctrine is another measure that makes parents responsible for car accidents involving their child as the driver. Colorado is one of the states that utilizes family purpose doctrine to determine liability.

    3. Negligent entrustment is another way parents could be responsible for minors involved in car accidents. If you allow your child to drive knowing that he or she may be too inexperienced, that alone puts you at risk of receiving a negligent entrustment lawsuit. This would especially be true if the child has a history of bad driving, substance abuse, or bad behavior.

  3. Car Owners, You’re Responsible for Your Vehicle No Matter Who’s Driving

    In most states, whoever owns the car is responsible for accidents that occur involving their vehicle. Similarly to an employer being responsible for employees driving a company car, car owners who allow others to drive are liable. Knowing that, you should think twice before allowing friends or family to drive your vehicle. Double-check your state’s laws regarding third-party vehicle use to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk. The owner’s insurance is responsible for the accident. In Colorado, you have to show some wrongdoing on the part of the car owner (i.e. negligent entrustment) before the car owner can be held responsible beyond the limits of their insurance.

  4. Negligent Entrustment is Cause for Liability

    As stated earlier, negligent entrustment holds car owners responsible when they allow inexperienced or dangerous drivers to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. However, there are a number of other ways you could be held responsible for a driver’s negligence. If you entrust your vehicle to drivers who are intoxicated, unlicensed, inexperienced, elderly, ill or historically reckless, you could be the third party responsible for the actions of the driver.

While you should always be careful when deciding who you allow to drive your vehicle, it’s still good advice to determine your degree of liability depending on where you live and what your insurance policy says. Review your state’s laws regarding third-party liability and take another look at your insurance policy to see what the company will pay in the event of a third-party auto accident.

For more advice on how to deal with car accidents in Colorado, check out these articles:

  1. What to Do After a Car Accident
  2. Colorado Car Insurance Guide: Everything You Need to Know About State Requirements
  3. Keeping Your Teen Driver Safe on Colorado Roads

**NOTE – this article and all content at Injurylawcolorado.com is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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