Can I Be Sued if I Wasn’t Driving?

Couple arguing while she is driving a carIn most car accident cases, liability for the accident falls to the person who is determined to be at fault.  Usually, fault is placed on the driver of one of the vehicles involved, due to that person’s reckless driving or negligence.  However, there are some special circumstances in which you could be held liable for a car accident and sued for negligence when you were not the person driving at the time of the accident.  In fact, it can happen even if you weren’t in the car at all.  Being held responsible for another person’s negligent actions is known as vicarious liability.  The following are examples of when this can occur.

  • There are three ways in which a parent can be held liable when their child causes a car accident. 1) Negligent entrustment, in which the parent knowingly trusts a child to operate a vehicle when they are aware the child is inexperienced, reckless, incompetent, or unlicensed.  2) Some states have laws known as the family purpose doctrine. This holds the owner of a family vehicle liable for an accident regardless of which member of the family is driving it at the time.  3) In some states, the individual who signs a minor’s application for a driver’s license, usually a parent, is legally responsible for the negligent driving of that minor.
  • The aforementioned negligent entrustment can also apply if you allow someone who is not a family member drive your car when they are unfit to drive.  The term unfit can be defined as any of the following: underage, unlicensed, intoxicated, impaired by illness, a history of reckless driving, and impaired by age.
  • By law, an employer is responsible for the negligent driving of their employees when the employee is in the midst of performing duties pertaining to their job.
  • In some states, the owner of the vehicle is always liable, regardless of their relationship to the driver.

If you allow others to drive your car, it is in your best interest to familiarize yourself with the laws in your state.  If your vehicle is in an accident while someone else is driving it, it is recommended you contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.



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