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What is vicarious liability in car accidents?

Did you know that someone who wasn't even at the accident scene can, in some cases, be liable for the damages caused in the wreck? This can happen based around on the theory of vicarious liability. It means that the third party could have prevented the accident by not allowing the driver to get behind the wheel, but this wasn't done, and so that third party bears some responsibility for creating a dangerous situation.

This basic idea is sometimes used to sue companies when employees crash at work. For instance, if a truck driver got into an accident and it turned out that he or she was under the influence, the company could be in trouble for not screening the drivers adequately. If evidence was produced showing that the company knew the driver was abusing alcohol and did nothing or covered it up, that could strengthen the case.

It is important in these cases that the drivers are at work when they crash. If the driver has left work but is still in a company vehicle, the company may be protected.

Individuals could also run into vicarious liability accusations if they loan cars to drivers who are a hazard. That's why parents are sometimes warned about letting their teenage drivers borrow their cars. An individual could also be in trouble if the person who borrowed the car was simply known to be a poor driver or expressed an interest in doing something reckless -- if he or she asked to borrow the car to see how fast it could go, for instance.

For those who have been hurt in accidents, the idea of vicarious liability can become very important, as it may open other doors to seek compensation.

Source: Findlaw, "Vicarious Liability and Negligent Entrustment," accessed Dec. 09, 2016

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