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Who can you sue in a car accident? (Hint: It’s not just the driver)

Who can you sue in a car accident? (Hint: It’s not just the driver)

The Trump presidency can be likened to a four-year car crash, and it will probably take just as many years to recover. Since Joe Biden won this year’s elections, it is time to heal from the multiple collisions.

Speaking of car crashes, today we discuss who can be sued in a car accident case. Seattle car accident attorneys like the Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams team can’t fix metaphorical car crashes, but we can handle literal ones.

In the Evergreen State, any person who gets into a vehicular accident -- whether they be walking or riding/driving a vehicle -- can seek compensation from the negligent driver. To protect your rights as a victim, it’s worth knowing who to sue in a car crash other than the driver.

car crash infographic

The driver’s employer

In any car accident, it’s easy and often reasonable to blame the driver who caused the crash. You can also dig deeper and find out if the negligent driver was driving on the job. Although the driver was the one behind the wheel, there are cases where it would make more sense to blame the driver’s employer.

This is due to the respondeat superior doctrine, or the general rule that holds the employer liable for the negligent act or omission of the employee. This doesn’t mean that the employer is automatically blamed for hiring the negligent employee. Some crucial details need to be considered when determining who is responsible in a scenario where a driver got into a car accident while driving his or her employer's car. For example, exceptions will apply in an incident where a driver was operating a company vehicle to do personal errands.

Still, you will want to consider naming the driver’s employer as a defendant. That’s because it’s likely that the employer will be able to pay compensatory damages higher than what would be paid by the insurer, as specified in insurance policy limits.

The driver and car owner

Australian rapper Iggy Azalea got into trouble for appropriating a culture that wasn’t hers, leading to her rapping career’s early demise. As we are attorneys and not cultural commentators, we leave that important matter to the proper arbitrators. That aside, Ms. Azalea is innocent of one legal misdeed she was almost accused of.

In 2016, skateboarder Jeffey Linnet named Ms. Azalea (real name: Amethyst Amelia Kelly) and Ayoub Kharbouch, the rapper’s then-boyfriend’s brother, as defendants in his car accident lawsuit. Per the lawsuit, a Jeep Wrangler hit Mr. Linett while he was skateboarding, causing him “extreme physical and emotional pain.” Ms. Azalea was named in the lawsuit because she owned the Jeep driven by Mr. Kharbouch.

Ms. Azalea was quick to defend herself, saying she was merely the vehicle owner and was, therefore, not liable, and that the matter was between Mr. Linnet, the driver, and the insurer.

In this case, she was right. Vehicle owners are not automatically liable for any car accident involving a third party — whether it be a family member, a friend, or an ex-boyfriend’s brother — driving the owner’s vehicle.

Note that a car owner can be named as a defendant in a car accident lawsuit even though the car owner wasn’t in the vehicle at the time of the accident as in scenarios involving negligent entrustment, i.e., assigning your car to someone who was unfit to drive. Look no further than the case of another flash-in-the-pan rapper, Chet Hanks, son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. In this “rapper’s” case, his mom and dad were sued for their unfit-to-drive boy’s mishap.

Related reading: Celebrity car accidents that take you for a ride

The local government

One may also sue local government bodies for a car accident, as in the tragic crash involving tennis superstar Venus Williams and Florida resident Jerome Barson. The car accident led to the death of Mr. Barson for which Ms. Wiliams was held responsible. However, the family of the deceased sued the Palm Beach, Florida agencies for what they alleged was the preventable death of Mr. Barson. According to the lawsuit, the death could have been avoided if the “dangerously busy” Palm Beach streets where the accident occurred were properly marked.

The carmaker

It's also possible to sue the car manufacturer after a car accident.

In another wrongful death case involving the widely reported accident involving the late actor Paul Walker, luxury car manufacturer Porsche was blamed for their allegedly defective vehicle. Mr. Walker’s daughter filed a lawsuit against the German car maker, alleging that the Porsche Carrera GT had a faulty seat belt design and lacked critical safety features that could have saved his life.

Kristine Rodas, the widow of Mr. Walker’s co-passenger Roger Rodas, who was driving the vehicle, also alleged that the Porsche had manufacturing, design, and testing defects.

How do you know who is liable in a car accident?

It’s not always easy to know who’s responsible for a car accident. In some cases, the driver isn’t the best person to sue. And if the driver of the vehicle is not the owner of the car, one could sue for damages against more than one person. Consult a car accident lawyer like Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams to protect your rights in such a case.

Leave us a message or call our Renton offices – 425-448-4740.