Someone borrows your car, or worse, steals it and then gets in a wreck. What happens to you? Are you liable for the damages that come from the crash? In Georgia, this area of the law is a little murky.
There are some instances where you may be held accountable for the accident which another driver caused. These cases also include times that you may not have even been at the scene. How can this happen?
It’s not unusual for the law to cover some grey areas with an umbrella statement such as, “It’s the owner’s fault.” However, you can work with legal guidance to show that there’s no reason for you to take all the blame.
An Atlanta Car Accident Attorney Explains Owner Liability
There are five common causes behind an insurance company or a court placing liability on the owner of a vehicle when they were not the one driving. Initially, this seems unreasonable, but through explaining each because you’ll find that these are not only reasonable but necessary in many cases.
Negligent Maintenance – One of two possible causes in which you both allowed someone to drive your car and believed them to be a fit driver. Negligent maintenance places the liability on the owner because they failed to maintain their vehicle. Ultimately, the involved entity working to resolve your claim or case will determine that the lack of maintenance attributed to the crash.
How can this happen? A quick example is brake failure. If you knew that your breaks were “going out” or worn through because of squealing, trouble stopping or rolling when in park, but still lent the vehicle you put someone else in danger. If the brake failure led to the crash, you would be liable for the damages because you neglected maintenance.
Employer Liability – The only other way that a trustworthy driver can use a car that isn’t theirs and the owner still be held liable for the damages of a crash. Essentially employer’s take responsibility for the actions of their staff. When an employee is using a commercial vehicle, the owner of the vehicle retains all liability for that driver’s actions.
A Minor with a Driver’s License Application – Often called a “permit” these minors don’t have a full-fledged driver’s license. They have not yet passed a driving test, and thus the state has issued them a permit to practice with a licensed adult driver. The important aspect is that the person liable is almost always the person who signed the permit, allowing the minor to drive.
“Family Car” Belief – When you initiate your car insurance policy, the insurance provider will often encourage you to add any possible driver from the household onto your policy. Why? Because it’s reasonable that anyone with access to your car keys can easily have access to the vehicles insured under your policy.
The family car belief often works with the notion that the parent allows their child to drive, and the child was in an accident. In the instances when this adult-child had their insurance, they may push the liability off on you as the car was a “family car.”
Liability for family car cases will depend on a few key factors such as who most often drove the vehicle, whose name is on the title, and the intent of the owner.
Negligent Entrustment – The most straightforward case behind liability issues is that you allowed someone to drive your car, which was unfit to drive.
Negligent entrustment applies to these situations and more. Lending your vehicle to:
- Someone who had been drinking or consuming drugs.
- Someone who is not licensed or is underage.
- Someone with no, or little, driving experience.
- Someone who is not able to physically drive safely, such as a person with decreased eyesight.
- Someone who has a history of reckless driving.
In the above cases, the insurance company or opposing party must show that you were aware of this issue and still chose to lend your car to that person.
Work with an Auto Accident Attorney in Atlanta
Because these issues are laid out so clearly it may seem like you can easily decipher which do and do not, apply to you. However, you will likely need the help of an Atlanta car crash lawyer to defend that you were not at fault or liable in your case.
The Weinstein Firm offers assistance to those handling personal injury claims, auto accident claims, and more. When struggling to understand how auto claims and the law can impact your life, turn to an experienced lawyer in Atlanta.