If you have been the victim of driver neglect that resulted in a car accident, it's likely that finding the at-fault individual responsible for your injuries was not that difficult a task. In most cases, the at-fault individual is the driver that did not use reasonable care or caution when behind the wheel (that is if you, yourself were not also in some way negligent and partially responsible, in which case comparative negligence would come into play). But in some cases the driver that caused the accident is not the individual responsible for your injuries or damages. In some cases, Illinois law attributes responsibility to someone more than those behind the wheel and, perhaps, not even in the car at the time of the accident.
A variety of these situations are actually common and you should know whom to pursue for damages when they occur:
An Employee is Driving as an Agent for Their Employer
Employers are held liable when their agents (employees) commit wrongful acts, including negligent driving while driving performing job responsibilities. The legal theory that this stems from is “vicarious liability,” or “imputed negligence.” Basically, two individuals have the kind of relationship that allows the law to hold one liable for the misconduct of the other.
So if a delivery driver is seen texting while driving and hits a pedestrian en route to making their delivery, the employer can be held responsible for the damages that result from the accident.
A Driver Allows Another Individual to Driver Their Car
Called a permissive user, an individual that is driving a car with the permission of its owner and causes an accident may be covered under the owner's automobile insurance, in which case, the plaintiff may pursue a claim against the owner's insurance carrier to recover damages.
In this case, there is no need for the owner of the vehicle and the driver to have an employer/employee relationship as in the previous example. All that needs to be established is that the driver was driving the car with the permission of its owner. In this scenario, the injured driver may pursue damages from the vehicle's owner insurance carrier.
Further, an injured party may pursue a claim under the theory of negligent entrustment. To successfully hold a vehicle owner liable for negligent entrustment, you'll have to show that: 1) the owner had an exclusive or superior right of control of the vehicle, compared to the driver (this means that if the driver is co-owner, you can't sue for negligent entrustment; 2) the owner knew, or should have known that the driver was not able to operate the vehicle safely but allowed him or her to drive anyways (i.e. when the driver is known to be inebriated, unlicensed, ill, previous reckless or inexperienced and; 3) the act of entrustment proximately caused your injuries.
It is extremely important that, should you find yourself the victim of a car accident, you immediately find an experienced personal injury attorney that can help identify the potential defendant(s) in your case as well as document evidence, medical treatment, damages and procure expert opinion to support the proving of fault in your case.
Please call Panio Law Offices at (708) 928-8680 if you have any questions about a car accident case. We understand Illinois personal injury law and we garner the highest awards to which our clients are available. We can help.