Third Party Liability and Negligent Entrustment
Many car accidents only involve two parties: the individual who was driving the car that caused the accident, and the person who was injured as a result of the first driver’s negligence. Typically, the second driver would be able to collect compensation for the losses he or she suffered directly from the at-fault driver or his or her insurer. However, in some cases, a third party who did not directly cause the accident, but may have contributed to it by allowing the at-fault driver to operate his or her vehicle can also be held accountable under North Carolina’s legal theory of negligent entrustment. Determining who was responsible for causing a car crash can be difficult, especially if multiple parties were involved, so if you were recently injured in a crash, it is important to obtain the advice of an experienced car accident attorney who can explain your legal options.
Can a Vehicle Owner be Held Liable for Another Driver’s Negligence?
Most employers are aware that if one of their employees causes a car crash while he or she was performing a work-related duty, they could also be held liable for the injuries resulting from the accident. However, few people know that there are actually a variety of possible third party individuals or entities that can be held responsible for a car crash, even if they were not in the car when the accident occurred. For instance, a person who chose to loan a vehicle to an individual when he or she knew, or should have known, that the driver was unfit to operate a vehicle can be required to pay damages to anyone injured as a result of the driver’s negligence or recklessness. An unfit driver is someone who is negligent, reckless, or likely to cause injury to others if placed behind the wheel. Generally, the following types of drivers would fall under the category of unfit:
- Someone who is intoxicated, or is likely to become intoxicated;
- An unlicensed or underage driver;
- An inexperienced driver, such as a minor who only has a learner’s permit;
- An elderly driver;
- A person suffering from an illness, such as epilepsy or narcolepsy; and
- Someone who has a history of driving recklessly or negligently.
To establish a car owner’s liability in this type of situation, the injured party must demonstrate that the owner knew or should have known about the driver’s incompetence. While this can be difficult, it is possible. For instance, someone who lent their car to an elderly relative who has poor eyesight to use at night may have a hard time demonstrating that he or she had no idea that the relative posed a danger to others. Alternatively, someone who allowed a person to drive his or her car despite the fact that the driver was noticeably intoxicated or had caused several accidents in the past could be held liable under the legal theory of negligent entrustment.
In North Carolina, negligent entrustment also extends to parents who allow a minor child to drive the family car despite knowing that the child is incompetent, reckless, or inexperienced. In these cases, parents can be required to pay damages for the injuries caused by their child even when the child was not included on a car’s insurance policy. Car owners can also be held liable for the injuries caused by any member of their family, including grandparents, cousins, and nieces and nephews. This liability stems from the legal theory known as the family purpose doctrine, which states that when a person buys and maintains a car for family use, that person is liable for the negligent driving of any family member who uses the vehicle with his or her express or implied consent.
This type of third party liability plays an important role in allowing injured parties to collect compensation for an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. Treating injuries and repairing or replacing a vehicle can be exorbitantly expensive and can quickly overwhelm a family’s finances. Injured parties may also be unable to work for weeks or even months after their accident, making it even more difficult, if not impossible to pay for surgeries, physical therapy, and medications on top of household expenses, such as rent, food, and gas. In particularly tragic cases, a victim may lose his or her life as a result of an accident, leaving loved ones behind to deal with their loss as well as more practical difficulties, such as making ends meet.
Fortunately, responsible parties can be required to compensate victims and their families for these types of losses. If a plaintiff is able to establish that according to the theory of negligent entrustment or the family purpose doctrine, a third party is liable for damages, he or she may be able to collect compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future income, property loss, and for the pain and suffering endured by the victim. While no amount of money can compensate a family for the loss of a loved one or an injured party for a disfiguring injury, collecting compensation can go a long way towards helping victims get started on the long road to recovery.
Call us Today to Speak With an Experienced Car Accident Attorney in Charlotte, NC
At Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A., our legal team is dedicated to helping car crash victims hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. We understand that car accidents are not only painful, but traumatic and take great pains to help relieve our clients of further burdens by handling court filings, trial issues, and settlement negotiations on their behalf. No one should have to go through this type of event on their own, so if you live in Charlotte and were injured in a crash that was caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, feel free to contact us by sending a brief message containing your contact information or by initiating a live chat with an experienced and compassionate NC car crash attorney.