Vicarious Liability: Can You Be At Fault For An Auto Accident When Not Driving Your Car?

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Did you know that there are a variety of cases where you can be held liable for an incident despite the fact that you did not commit the crime or act of negligence? This is especially common when someone is driving a car that you own and is involved in an accident. One such case is through vicarious liability. Throughout the course of this brief article, you will learn a number of things about vicarious liability, mainly, how to adequately define the term and what sort of consequences being charged with vicarious liability will have for you.

What Is Vicarious Liability?

Vicarious liability is essentially an act of negligence. Legal negligence occurs when a person who is reasonably sound fails to perform an action that a reasonably sound person would do (i.e., run a red light). There are cases where someone can be liable and negligent for an act, but another person also holds some of the liability and responsibility, as well. This second person can be charged with vicarious liability.

There are many cases where the owner of a car can be charged with vicarious liability despite not even being present when an act of negligence takes place. The owner of the car, if he or she is considered the "head" of his or her family, can be charged with vicarious liability if another family member decides he or she wants to take the family vehicle out for a ride and gets into an accident. Likewise, vicarious liability can be imputed upon the owner of the car if the owner lends the car to a friend or acquaintance. Employers, too, can be found liable for negligence under vicarious liability if the owner of the vehicle is a business and the employee is driving the vehicle under the auspice of a work related activity and is found to be negligent (through running a red light, failing to obey the speed limit, being the impetus of an accident, etc.).

What Constitutes Ownership?

The definition of ownership is quite straightforward in vicarious liability cases. It simply refers to the legal owner of the automobile in question. However, whether the owner is liable or not is a different question; a person cannot be held vicariously liable for negligence simply by dint of being the owner of the automobile. Rather, the owner can only be held responsible in one of two cases: the aforementioned case where a family member has used the owner's vehicle, or when the owner of the vehicle has a person perform a task specifically for them with approved use of the owner's automobile, as such in the case where an employer can be held vicariously responsible due to the actions of an employee.

Situations Wherein You Are Liable

Although there have been a few that have been discussed within the context of other portions of this article, there are quite a few situations in which the owner can be held vicariously liable for damages caused due to negligence. In one of the cases that was not discussed beforehand, you can be held vicariously liable for loaning your car to a person who is known to be incompetent behind the wheel of a car. This means they are a person who has a prior history of negligence or reckless endangerment when it comes to driving an automobile. By giving your blessing to drive your vehicle to a person who you know to be a reckless driver, you are also giving your blessing to be complicit in any act of negligence that he or she perpetrates while driving your car.

Vicarious liability is a serious issue. If you are being charged with vicarious liability, contact a car accident lawyer in order to help you navigate the complicated waters and to get the defense and help that you need.