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How Is Vicarious Liability Determined After an Auto Accident?

Leading Car Accident Lawyer in DC

Car accident liability can be easy to determine if you were driving your own vehicle at the time of the incident. However, you might be wondering how liability is determined if someone else was driving your car. If you loan your car to someone else, you can still be found responsible for any damage that was sustained from an accident. There are several different circumstances that can apply to this type of liability, also known as vicarious liability.

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What Is the Definition of Vicarious Liability?

The theory of vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that assigns liability for an injury to someone who did not cause the injury but who has a specific relationship to the person who acted negligently. Also referred to as “imputed liability,” blame is assigned even if you didn’t cause harm to another individual.

This legal concept is most commonly seen in employee-employer relationships where the employer can be held responsible for the accident. For example, if a doctor has done harm to a patient, in a medical malpractice claim the hospital may be held responsible for that doctor’s actions. Although the hospital itself did not cause the patient harm, because it is the employer of the doctor, it has a relationship with that doctor and therefore, employer liability can come into play.

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What are the Elements of Vicarious Liability?

In order to prove an individual or entity is vicariously liable for the actions of another person, the following needs to be proven:

An example of how a third party can be held responsible for an injury can be seen in a truck accident. A truck driver gets into an accident while hauling a load across the country. While getting on a highway, he doesn’t look to see if any cars are coming. As he comes off the off-ramp to merge into traffic, he hits a passing vehicle. The truck driver later states that he had been on the road for 14 hours straight without resting and at the time of the accident, he could feel himself starting to fall asleep behind the wheel.

It is later revealed that the trucking company the driver works for gives incentives to its drivers each time they deliver a load before the deadline. Because of the trucking company’s incentive program, the employee did not follow federal guidelines of taking a break. This caused his drowsiness and the accident.

In the example above, the trucking company can be held liable for the accident, even though it did play a part in the accident.

What Are the Different Scenarios Where Vicarious Liability Would Apply?

The relationship between the defendant and the third party does not have to be an employer-employee relationship. Here are a few other scenarios where vicarious liability can play a part in an accident:

  • Loaning your car to a bad driver. If you let an unsafe driver borrow your car, you can be liable for any car accident that the person caused. In most states, the owner of the car and the at-fault driver of the car can be named in a lawsuit under vicarious liability. This situation also files under the law theory of “negligent entrustment,” which simply means that you entrusted someone with the responsibility of your vehicle, knowing that they were an inexperienced or bad driver. These two theories can make you liable and held responsible for any injuries that were caused at the car accident scene by a negligent driver.
  • Holding a parent responsible for a child’s actions. A parent may be held responsible for the child’s actions as long as the child is under 18 and acting in a malicious or willful manner that resulted in another person’s injury or damage to property. For example, a teen driver got into an accident with her parent’s vehicle. It was later determined that the teen was texting her friends while driving. Because of her negligent actions, an accident occurred. Under the family car doctrine, the owner of the car may be held responsible for any damage that the family member causes in a car crash.
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How Vicarious Liability is Determined After a Car Accident

If you get into a car accident with an at-fault driver, how is it determined whether another party is also responsible for your accident?

In order to prove that a third party is also liable for your car accident, you will need to prove that the at-fault party was acting on their behalf when the accident occurred. Therefore you will need to prove:

If an employer is held responsible for the car accident, they could be held responsible for any medical bills or property damage caused by the accident.

How a Washington DC Car Accident Lawyer at Regan Zambri Long Can Help

Vicarious liability in car accidents can be a complicated matter and you’ll need an experienced Washington DC car accident lawyer to help you through the process. The attorneys at Regan Zambri Long PLLC could help you determine the parties who are at fault for your accident. We will investigate your claim, determine who should be held at fault, and make sure you get the compensation needed to get back to your life following an accident. Call us at (202)960-4746 today for a free consultation.

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Have you or your loved one sustained injuries in Washington DC, Maryland or Virginia? Regan Zambri Long PLLC has the best lawyers in the country to analyze your case and answer the questions you may have.

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