When it comes to auto accidents, you can be held liable for damages in some cases where you were not even driving the vehicle. This falls under the category of vicarious liability. Throughout the course of this brief guide, you will learn a bit about what vicarious liability is, what constitutes "ownership," and situations where you might find yourself liable for damages due to the legal phenomenon of vicarious liability.
What Is Vicarious Liability?
Vicarious liability is an act of legal negligence. This means that you have committed an act that a person who, under most reasonable conditions, would not do – or you have failed to do something that a person who, under most reasonable conditions, would do. Vicarious liability essentially means that, although you were not the person who committed the action that was the direct causal precedent to a person becoming harmed or property being damaged, you were legally responsible for that person's behavior. Vicarious liability, as it relates to car accidents, usually rests upon the ownership of the vehicle in question, even though the owner of the vehicle was not behind the wheel at the time of the accident.
What Dictates Ownership?
Ownership, in every case of a car related personal injury case, simply refers to the legal owner of the vehicle. However, just because a person is the owner of the vehicle that was involved in an accident does not mean that the owner him- or herself answer is necessarily responsible for the accident or liable for damages. There are two specific cases wherein the owner of a vehicle can be held responsible for the accident. The first is where a member of the family has used the owner's vehicle. The second case is where the owner of the vehicle has assigned a task to an individual in which he or she must use the owner's vehicle. The latter case often times involves the use of a company vehicle.
If you allow a person who is incompetent behind the wheel of your vehicle, you can be held liable for damages. For example, if the person driving your vehicle was given direct permission by you to drive your car, and recklessly endangers the lives of others, then you can be held responsible for the driver's behavior. Another case involves a family member. If you gave your vehicle to your teenage son or daughter for the day and they were involved in an accident, you can be held responsible for any damages that others received due to their bad driving.
This brief guide should have informed you about the legal issue of vicarious liability and how it is related to vehicle ownership. If you have any further questions, it is recommended that you call on the services of a local and trusted auto accident attorney.