Who Can Sue in a Car Accident Case? (More parties than you thought)
If you have been injured in a car accident, you are likely focused on filing a lawsuit against the driver of the other vehicle. While that is always a possibility, there are others against whom you can file a personal injury claim.
This can allow you to lodge a negligence action against a defendant with deeper pockets who can not only pay your medical expenses but can also pay other claims such as compensatory damages and property damage in a jury award or settlement agreement.
Of course, when you file a lawsuit as a plaintiff, you will likely be naming the driver of the other vehicle as a defendant. However, there may be other parties who bear some of the blame for the accident. Your personal injury attorney will likely look to see if there are other defendants who can be added to the lawsuit.
One of the first questions that your lawyer will ask is whether the other driver was working at the time of the accident. If they were, their employer may be able to be sued in a car accident lawsuit.
Filing a Civil Lawsuit against the Driver’s Employer
This liability occurs because the driver of the vehicle is considered an agent of their employer. When the company has the ability to direct their drivers, they are legally the same entity as the driver. This happens because of something called the respondeat superior doctrine. If the driver is negligent, it is the same thing as the company itself being negligent.
However, just because the accident may have happened in a company car, it does not mean that the employer is automatically liable for the accident. There are some exceptions to the doctrine of liability. For example, if the driver was running an errand in the company car, that would not be considered a task that benefits their employer.
The main question that a court will ask is whether the employee was acting within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred. This would exclude personal errands and other intentional torts that the driver would commit.
When you are in an accident with a company employee, you will want to add the employer as a defendant if it is at all possible. This is because the company will likely have a larger insurance policy than the driver and would also have assets to fulfill a judgement if they are required to pay an amount greater than policy limits of the insurer. An individual driver may not have as large of a policy with the insurance company.
Still, the court may look to your degree of contributory negligence before it awards damages such as pain and suffering and medical costs.
Product Liability Lawsuits for Car Accidents
Sometimes, you may be in an accident where the other driver has not been negligent in any way. Instead, the crash was caused by the fact that either your car or the other driver’s vehicle was defective.
In this case, as an injury victim, you could file a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the vehicle. Even if it was not the vehicle itself but a certain part that failed, you can still sue the maker of the auto part in a personal injury lawsuit.
Some recent lawsuits in this area include court claims related to tires and airbags. In addition, some of the larger mass tort lawsuits of all-time have been against vehicle manufacturers such as the Ford Pinto lawsuit.
In these cases, the general rule is that the court will look at the manufacture and design of the car or the part to see if it unreasonably dangerous. Product liability lawsuits can lead to larger settlements and jury awards because the particular injury involved is usually more serious. As a result, there are likely higher economic and non-economic damages.
When an Injured Person Can Sue the Government
Sometimes, the car accident was not caused by either of the drivers involved, but was the result of poor road conditions. While it is not always easy to sue the government, it is possible when they failed to maintain the road and it has caused personal injury.
Given the condition of many of Illinois’ and Cook County’s roads, this is becoming increasingly common, even though lawsuits can be filed in limited circumstances. The government can be held legally responsible for the condition of the roads because they have the obligation to maintain them. If the government also is negligent when making a repair, they can also be required to pay financial compensation.
As an experienced attorney will advise you, there are some different procedural rules to follow when you are filing a lawsuit against the government. You will have a shorter statute of limitations to file your lawsuit and there may be damage caps on the recovery you get.
A Car Accident Claim against the Vehicle’s Owner
Depending on who was driving the car, you can also file a lawsuit against the owner of the vehicle, even if they were not driving when their actions have caused your physical injury. First, the owner may have lent their car to someone whom they should not have trusted with the vehicle.
For example, they could have given the car keys to an irresponsible driver or one who has been drinking. This can also involve situations where a teenager is driving their parents’ car.
Second, the car owner may not have maintained the car in proper working condition. An example could be the fact that they had either worn or underinflated tires on the car which caused a blowout.
For legal advice about your possible car accident lawsuit, contact a Chicago Car Accident Lawyer at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC.