Do I Sue the Driver or the Vehicle’s Owner?

In most circumstances, there is only one person liable if a car accident is caused: the driver who caused the collision. However, there are certain situations where liability might extend to more parties.

What You Should Do Following an Accident

If you are involved in an auto wreck, it is vital to check and see if the driver who hit you is also the one who owns the vehicle. When you exchange information with the other driver(s), check if the name on the license matches the name of their registration and insurance card. If they are not the same, ask if they are the vehicle owner.

When Would the Owner Also Share Negligence?

There are few cases when anyone other than the negligent driver is at fault and takes responsibility for the damages. However, there are four occurrences when it can. They are:

  • Family Car Doctrine

  • Negligent Entrustment

  • Negligent Maintenance

  • Employer Liability

Family Car Doctrine

Teenagers are among the population that causes many accidents, largely due to inexperience. In many cases, a child will begin driving a vehicle once they turn 16. However, a teenager getting in a car accident will not immediately place blame on the parents.

The legal principle called the “family car doctrine” (or Family Purpose Doctrine, as North Carolina refers to it as) commonly comes into play if a teenager is using a family vehicle at the time of their crash. However, North Carolina requires that three elements be proven under this doctrine to have a viable claim:

  1. The person driving the vehicle at the time of the accident was a member of the vehicle owner’s family or household.

  2. The vehicle was owned, maintained, and provided for family use and convenience.

  3. The vehicle owner had given consent for the vehicle to be used at the time of the accident.

Negligent Entrustment

This is similar to the family car doctrine. The owner may be held responsible in a car accident claim if they entrust the vehicle to a person who:

  • Is driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Does not have a license and/or is below the legal driving age.

  • Does not have enough experience being behind the wheel.

  • Is elderly with poor vision, has too slow reaction times, or has other health conditions that prevent them from safely operating a vehicle.

  • Has a driving record that includes several reckless driving accounts.

Negligent Maintenance

Negligent maintenance is a term that describes the owner’s responsibility for ensuring that their vehicle is in working condition. This theory is applied to a case when an owner fails to maintain necessary standard upkeep, such as routinely getting the tires checked, ensuring that the oil levels are filled and changed regularly, etc.

It’s important to note that in order for negligent maintenance to be used in a claim, this maintenance or mechanical error has to be the primary reason a crash was caused. However, this may also be a means to pursue a claim against the vehicle manufacturer as well.

Employer Liability

Negligent maintenance is often intertwined with employer liability. Employers can be liable for accidents that an employee using a company or commercial vehicle causes. The most common place this is seen is with truck accident claims.

What is Contributory Negligence and How Does This Affect Your Claim?

North Carolina is one of the few states that use contributory negligence when examining a motor vehicle crash claim. If you share any amount of fault, you cannot recover any losses or receive compensation for your injuries.

For this reason, it’s critical to seek the assistance of an experienced car accident lawyer to ensure that your case is examined thoroughly. Insurance companies often take advantage of those who don’t understand the laws and how contributory negligence works.

We Can Help

Contact us today for legal representation that is compassionate towards clients and aggressive towards wrongdoers. We offer free, no-obligation consultations. The team at Benoit Law Firm, PLLC is here to help you during this troubling time.

Call us at (877) 600-7212 to speak with a Charlotte car accident attorney.