Who Is Liable—The Car Owner or Driver?

Determining who is at fault in a car accident is complex and challenging. There is no disrespect to you or a loved one as the victim, but it is probably a job only a car accident attorney can handle. You never know how many parties may be in on the claim. Figuring out who is at fault can be why a car accident lawsuit succeeds or fails.

A car accident is a scary experience, no doubt. The first step you should take, though, is to get medical attention right away. After that, you are on the right track and road to recovery. Only then can you think about your legal options moving forward.

If you or a loved one are in a terrible car accident, medical bills are probably already beginning to pile up. Car accident attorneys want to help you navigate through the legal process to cover the cost of medical expenses and, at the same time, obtain the money you deserve so you can continue to pay for any future charges.

There are a few critical differences between establishing liability in a car accident. An experienced attorney can help you settle this appropriately-most of the time, determining who is liable circles back to a few different factors. There isn’t one size fit in figuring out liability.

What Is the Difference Between Car Accidents?

Liable for Car AccidentThe parties in a car accident are you and your insurance company, the other driver, and their insurance company. Liability commonly falls on one of the drivers unless additional factors like a bicyclist or act of nature are the reason for the collision.

As a driver, you always have a duty of care to follow the road rules and exercise good judgment while driving. That way, you exercise caution and can protect yourself and anyone else on the road from harm. This duty of care also applies to drivers of passenger cars, big rigs, and everything in between.

For example, the driver may be at fault, but liability might fall on other parties. Unlike an accident that only involves you and another passenger car driver, you still need to know who is driving the car to establish accountability.

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What Are Some Liability Issues for a Car Accident?

Many parties can be liable in a car accident, but what usually complicates the cases is determining who is responsible for what and to what extent.

Vehicle Maintenance

In addition to driving responsibly, as a car owner, you have to ensure that your vehicle is operating safely. A car can still fail, brakes may go out, and power steering problems or other mechanical troubles can also cause an accident. However, if your vehicle has routine inspections and performs the necessary maintenance, you can avoid those issues.

If the accident results from the other driver’s car and maintenance issues, they should be aware that their liability increases.

Whoever owns or leases the vehicle is responsible for its maintenance. There are provisions in a contract that outline everything regarding care. You may not have any way of knowing what is in agreement; leave it to your car accident attorney to get the details.

In accidents that occur because of faulty brakes or other mechanical malfunctions, the liability falls on the car’s manufacturer or part.

Who Is Responsible for Damages in a Car Accident if the Driver Is Not the Vehicle Owner?

Additionally, if a car accident occurs and the vehicle owner is not the driver, the owner may assume that the person driving is responsible for any damage. However, the driver may state that the owner is responsible. These are the cases that often go to court.

Whenever an individual purchases a car, they must have insurance. A general rule of thumb is that the insurance on the vehicle protects everyone living in the household. Unless, of course, they are not in the policy on purpose. You will find that listing other residents is a requirement when applying anyway. Though, friends and relatives who live outside the house do not fall under this form of protection. Sometimes there is a rule of permissive use.

For individuals who allow someone to borrow their car, there is an understanding that the vehicle owner permits the driver. When that happens, the driver can assume coverage by the vehicle owner’s insurance company. In an accident and the friend is at fault, the car owner must file a claim with the company, pay the deductible and accept rising insurance rates. If the friend has their insurance, it is secondary.

If the owner is not behind the car’s wheel when an accident occurs, they still face a penalty. The friend’s policy only kicks in when the damage exceeds the car owner’s coverage. If the friend is not at fault, the other driver’s insurance covers all damage. This limitation doesn’t affect the associate’s or the car owner’s insurance. The insurance company is still responsible for paying out from their policies, and they need to recover their losses.

It is important to remember that car insurance applies to the vehicle, not the driver. Policies can differ, and individuals need to understand their policies and ask questions whenever something is unclear. Once an accident happens, it is too late to conduct research and contest the contract.

Car accident attorneys respond to claims where a vehicle owner purposely excludes a driver from coverage under their policy. They state that the individual cannot operate the vehicle, and the owner’s insurance will not cover damages the person causes. If it is apparent that someone uses the car without permission, as a theft, the car owner is not responsible for damages or injuries that may result from an accident.

Below, you will find the possibility of an accident due to product defects and who is liable for those damages.

What are Product Liability Claims in a Car Accident?

Product liability refers to a specific category of legal claims or strict liability. Product liability is when you sustain injuries from a defective product. Yes, you are responsible for the car maintenance, but there is still the possibility of problems occurring with the car design. Law firms see a lot of product liability claims.

The most common, though, is due to:

  • Brake failure
  • Defective trailer hitch
  • Steering problems
  • Load straps
  • Coupling systems
  • Tires
  • Locks
  • Hydraulics

Passenger cars can have a single manufacturer that assembles the parts. However, other larger vehicles can have elements from various manufacturers. Accidents resulting from a failure of the car parts mean that the vehicle’s manufacturer or the part’s maker is responsible for damages.

How Do Insurance Companies Calculate the Value of a Claim?

The industry standard for some of the large insurers in the country is a software application that we call Colossus. It calculates settlement values for car accidents for at least half of the insurance cases in the nation-many large insurers, like Allstate, Farmers, Metlife, USAA, and more, use the system.

The software uses computer-generated rules or an algorithm that asks questions as it relates to your claim. The adjuster then enters data into the system, and the software figures out a mathematically fair settlement offer from that information. Do not confuse software gauging how injuries make you feel or the effects on your life. It does add severity points to your injuries, and the system can multiply the amount of money insurance companies can offer you.

Take a look at this example if you are still questioning the software. Suppose the adjuster enters symptoms like headaches, muscle pain, nausea, depression, etc. A value driver is another way to raise the amount of your settlement. Colossus factors in whether you go to the hospital, receive treatment, and whether or not you have an ongoing physical impairment or disability.

Should I Hire a Car Accident Attorney?

Yes. Many factors can cause car accidents, making the lawsuits complex. Having a liability in the crash complicates your situation further.

Insurance companies set out to pay as little as possible in a settlement. Yes- this includes your own too. If you keep that your insurance company isn’t your lawyer in mind, it can make your life much easier. The adjuster’s job is to cover your losses with as little money as possible from the insurance company. They may represent you and your interests against another insurance company, but they still put their interests before yours.

Car accident attorneys must represent you as the victim and client. They will work hard to minimize your role so you can still recover from the liability of other parties. You may have some weakness in the accident, though. There is no need to worry. If there is another responsible party, like the other driver, manufacturer, or another party, your attorney will find out through the discovery process.

It isn’t as straightforward for more significant vehicle accidents. People in car accidents with two or more passengers in the car probably only have to deal with the insurance and liability of the drivers. There can be a few liable parties in a lawsuit.

Now, what does this mean for you? You might deal with several insurers and in-house lawyers for large companies and other entities. It is noteworthy that none of these have your best interest in mind. Do not try to handle the case yourself. An attorney should manage all communications with parties in a vehicle accident lawsuit, conduct negotiations, and take the legal process on your behalf.

What to Do Following a Vehicle Accident?

Your priority is to get the medical attention you need. As the bills begin to arrive, you will need a plan to cover the costs.

A car accident lawyer is your next best step. Knowing that there are lawyers who concentrate their practices in car accidents and have the experience in determining future long-term costs of serious injuries can be to your advantage. They know how to handle the insurance companies and other responsible parties and hold them accountable. Having the legal representation you need can help you become closer to physical and financial recovery.

Securing legal representation as soon as possible is vital in protecting your rights as a car accident victim. However, you need to perform due diligence and consult a few different firms before deciding.

As you look for a car accident lawyer, the seven factors you want to consider are reputation, experience, resources, negotiation skills, dedication, comfort, and payment. If you find a law firm with attorneys that check off all these elements, you are in good hands. Your attorney can determine who is at fault for the accident, the vehicle owner or the driver. Depending on the accident and the factors that contribute to the accident will ultimately determine who takes the blame.

Chris Dixon & Greg Motil

Chris Dixon & Greg Motil

Contact a Car Accident Attorney Today

A car accident attorney can assist you no matter your claim’s circumstances. Even if you are not the vehicle driver during the accident, our car accident attorneys will fight for you.

The bottom line of all this is to remember that you deserve compensation for the injuries you sustain in your accident.

Car accident attorneys are the key to recovering damages that allow you to get back on your feet and pay your bills now and in the future. You can start by browsing online local law firms and those that focus their practice on car accidents. You will thank yourself later down the road for all the work you put in during the beginning stages of your claim.

A successful case ends with compensation. Attorneys know that you want to get back to your life before the accident. That is why a great attorney does everything in their power to win your case. No one deserves to be essentially on their own to handle the hardships that come in the aftermath of a car accident.

Contact a car accident attorney who fights for you, your rights, and above all else, justice.