Who Is Liable: The Car Owner or Driver?

When someone causes an accident in a car they don’t own, they may share liability. However, the vehicle owner’s insurance provider often bears primary responsibility for covering victims’ accident-related losses. If the car owner’s insurance does not provide adequate coverage for your losses, you may then seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.

Insurance rules and laws vary by state. A Seattle car accident lawyer will determine who owes you compensation for medical costs, professional damages, and other accident-related harm.

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Liability for Car Accidents Varies Case-by-Case

Who Is Liable: The Car Owner or Driver

Some key considerations when determining if the car owner or driver bears financial responsibility include:

  • Whether the car owner gave permission to the at-fault driver to drive their vehicle
  • Whether a vehicle-related defect caused the accident (or whether the collision happened because of driver error or another hazard)
  • The insurance status of both the car owner and at-fault driver
  • The amount of insurance coverage provided by the owner’s and driver’s auto policies
  • Whether the car owner was negligent in allowing the driver to use their vehicle

Your attorney will strive to secure fair compensation for your accident-related damages, whether from the driver, vehicle owner, or elsewhere.

Your State’s Insurance Laws Will Govern Your Claim(s)

The state where your car accident happened will govern financial liability.

In Florida, for example, every insured motorist generally seeks compensation from their insurer. Florida is one of the handful of no-fault insurance states where one’s own insurer generally covers some degree of medical costs and property damage, regardless of who causes the collision.

When you hire a car accident lawyer in any state, they will know:

  • The insurance rules specific to that state
  • What to do if your accident involves an out-of-state motorist
  • What to do if your own insurance does not cover your accident-related losses
  • How to assess financial liability when the at-fault driver is not the car owner
  • Every other insurance-related rule, law, and strategy that is relevant to your case

An experienced attorney will bring a wealth of knowledge to your case. This knowledge may be particularly valuable due to the complicated nature of your accident.

Vehicle Owners Are Responsible for Their Car (and Those Who Drive It)

Insurance statutes assign great responsibility to vehicle owners.

You can hold a car owner responsible for:

  • Injuries suffered by the person driving their car
  • Injuries suffered by those hit by the driver of their car
  • Property damage to their own vehicle
  • Property damage to victims’ vehicles
  • Certain other losses that can result from a car accident

A car owner must be aware of the financial risks of letting someone borrow their car. Therefore, an owner cannot be surprised if they face financial liability for your accident.

How a Responsible Vehicle Owner May Have Prevented Your Accident

There is a reason why the vehicle’s owner is often financially responsible for a car accident, even when someone else causes the collision.

A responsible car owner may prevent an accident by:

  • Generally refusing to allow others to use their vehicle
  • Being particularly wary of lending the vehicle to anyone who may be impaired
  • Refusing to lend the vehicle to someone with a dangerous driving record
  • Ensuring the vehicle is in good condition so, even if someone is driving the vehicle, a defect will not cause an accident

If a motorist lent their car to someone who caused your accident, they made a mistake. The vehicle owner may have to pay for your accident-related losses due to their poor decision.

Options for Seeking Compensation After a Car Accident

Options for Seeking Compensation After a Car Accident

There are several possible ways to secure compensation after your accident, including:

  • Filing a claim with your auto insurance provider
  • Filing a claim with the insurer representing the vehicle’s owner
  • Filing a claim with the insurer representing the at-fault driver
  • Filing a lawsuit against any parties with legal responsibility for your accident-related damages

Car accidents that cause injuries often cost more than the limits of a single auto policy provide for. This may mean your case involves multiple insurance claims and potentially a lawsuit.

Allow your lawyer to develop your case strategy. Their legal knowledge, insurance knowledge, and experience with similar cases will allow them to identify the right course(s) of action for you.

What to Do After Your Car Accident

Chaotic may understate the post-accident experience. You may suffer physical pain, need to sort out financial liability for your accident, and face countless other challenges after the collision, such as contacting your employer. Let a lawyer help you.

Your greatest priorities after your car accident:

  1. Finding an experienced lawyer to guide your case: You can find a car accident lawyer whose priority is securing your financial recovery. They will protect you and provide clear advice to guide you through the case ahead.
  2. Seeking all the medical care you need: You must get medical attention for injuries and symptoms you experience after your accident. You can be in danger if you do not get a comprehensive physical exam. You may also seek mental health treatment if you are suffering psychologically or emotionally because of the accident.

Florida Statutes § 95.11 generally requires car accident lawyers in Florida to file cases within two years of the accident. Similar statutes exist in most other states. For this reason, it is critical that you not wait any longer to hire your attorney.

If you miss the filing deadline for your case or lose important evidence because you waited to hire a lawyer, the financial consequences of your delay can be significant.

More Tips to Follow After a Car Accident

After your accident, hiring a lawyer and finding a capable doctor are the major priorities.

You should also:

If you have any questions, are unsure how to proceed, or have concerns, speak with your lawyer. They should provide their phone number so you can contact them at any time.

Your Lawyer Will Seek Fair Compensation for All Accident-Related Damages

Your attorney will fight tirelessly for the financial recovery you are entitled to. While each case is unique, car accident victims often experience:

Unexpected Medical Expenses

Unexpected Medical Expenses after Car Accident

Medical expenses are always a burden. They can be even more burdensome when they are unexpected (as is the case when car accidents happen).

Your attorney will demand that liable parties cover the cost of:

  • Ambulance transport
  • Emergency medical services
  • Hospitalization
  • Medications
  • Surgeries
  • Medical imaging
  • Doctor visits, including specialist appointments
  • Cosmetic procedures for scarring and other disfigurement

Every car accident victim has a different injury profile and medical needs. Your attorney will work closely with your doctors to document your medical care and include healthcare costs in your case.

Professional Interruptions (and Related Damages)

If injuries from your car accident interfere with your professional life, your attorney will value your professional damages.

Such damages may include:

  • Lost income
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Lost chances for performance bonuses
  • Ineligibility for promotions

You may risk losing your job, career, and benefits if your injuries are serious. Car accident lawyers can consult employers and economists to help document clients’ professional damages.

Property Expenses

Auto accidents almost always cause property costs, which can include:

  • Vehicle repair costs
  • The cost of a new vehicle (when a car is totaled)
  • The cost of replacing personal items like clothing, cell phones, and items inside the vehicle when the accident happened
  • The cost of temporary transportation

Your lawyer will contact your mechanic and any other insightful parties to calculate your property expenses.

Mental Health Treatment Costs

Car accident victims who need medication, therapy, or other mental health treatment can pursue compensation for their care-related expenses. Your lawyer will evaluate your treatment costs and include them in your claim or lawsuit.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and Suffering after Car Accident

Your accident may cause unseen harm, much of which may qualify as pain and suffering.

Your pain and suffering may include:

  • Pain from your injuries
  • Neurological issues
  • Personality and mood changes
  • Memory issues
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lost quality of life

Some accident victims face substantial changes they find immensely distressing. Civil courts use damages known as pain and suffering to compensate victims for such harm.

Steps Your Car Accident Lawyer Will Take to Secure Your Financial Recovery

Your legal team will personalize a case strategy built around your accident-related damages. They will fulfill every step of this strategy, checking in periodically while you recover.

You should expect your car accident lawyer to:

Gather Evidence from Your Accident

Evidence can go a long way toward winning a car accident case.

Your attorney will immediately pursue any evidence that benefits your case, which may include:

  • Eyewitness testimony detailing how and why the car accident happened
  • Video of the accident captured on security cameras, traffic cameras, or other sources
  • Any police report detailing facts about the collision
  • Photographs of damaged vehicles and other accident-related scenes
  • Statements from those involved in the accident

Car accident lawyers have the infrastructure to obtain evidence right away. Your attorney and their investigators will gather all relevant evidence while it is available, but you must hire your legal team before they can do this.

Establish Liability for Your Damages

Your lawyer will determine liability for your accident-related damages based on all the facts about your accident.

Potential defendants in car accident cases include:

Your attorney will identify who is liable for your accident. In their case, your lawyer will explain why those parties are liable. They will align all relevant evidence to show why their determination of liability is accurate.

Calculate the Financial Cost of Your Damages

All of your economic and non-economic damages have a specific monetary value. Your lawyer will calculate that value. Once they are certain of your accident-related damages, your attorney will be ready to negotiate a settlement.

Secure Documentation of Your Damages

Your case will include documentation of your accident-related damages, which may include:

  • CT scans, X-rays, MRIs, and any other images of your injuries
  • Your doctors’ diagnoses of your injuries
  • Bills for accident-related medical care
  • Invoices for the repair of your vehicle and replacement of other damaged property
  • Diagnosis of conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD
  • Any other evidence of your economic and non-economic damages

If liable parties dispute any of your damages, this documentation will back up your lawyer’s claims.

Negotiate a Settlement on Your Behalf

Car accident victims may get compensation from insurance companies or directly from liable parties. Your attorney will relentlessly pursue a fair settlement, which is how most civil cases conclude.

File Any Necessary Lawsuit for You

Those liable for car accident victims’ damages do not always extend a fair settlement. When this happens, the accident victim’s lawyer can file a lawsuit.

Once your lawyer files a lawsuit, liable parties will have to consider whether they’re willing to risk losing in court. Your attorney can continue negotiating a settlement after filing the suit, and liable parties may finally meet their settlement demands.

Complete a Trial, if Necessary

Your attorney can take your case to court, if necessary. Though the majority of car accident cases settle, your attorney should prepare your case for trial. If liable parties never meet their settlement demands, they will be ready to fight for you in court.

Never Wait Any Longer to Hire Your Car Accident Attorney

Tatiana Boohoff, Seattle Car Accident Attorney
Car Accident Lawyer, Tatiana Boohoff

Remember that your car accident case will have a strict deadline if you require litigation. Don’t wait to hire your lawyer, as you can face catastrophic financial consequences if you miss the filing deadline.

Consultations are free, so you risk nothing by having a skilled personal injury attorney evaluate your best options and legal rights today.

April 10, 2024
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