Determining financial responsibility for injuries resulting from an auto accident is normally a fairly straightforward process. Typically, one driver or both can be considered at fault. However, it may be possible for someone other than the driver to be responsible for accident-related expenses.
If you're hit by a pizza delivery driver, a taxi cab, or a salesperson using a company car to meet clients, his employer may be liable for your injuries. Under the premise of “vicarious liability” or “imputed negligence,” employers can be held responsible for the negligent conduct of their employees during work hours.
When an accident is caused by someone driving his own vehicle on business for his employer, the driver's auto insurance provides the primary coverage. If the damages exceed the policy limits, the employer's business auto policy can provide additional coverage if it has been endorsed to include “employees as additional insured.”
Liability for Accidents Caused by Teen Drivers
Teen drivers cause a disproportionately high number of accidents due to their general inexperience behind the wheel. If a driver is under age 18 and still living at home, his parents can be held liable for the damages that result. If a vehicle owner allowed someone under age 17—such as a student with a learner's permit—to drive a vehicle on a public road or highway, he can be held jointly liable for damages resulting from the minor's negligence.
Liability for Accidents Caused by Student Drivers
Accidents involving someone who is in a driver's education program can present unique liability issues. If the instructor is negligent, he can be held liable for the student's actions. The driving school itself can also be held responsible if it allowed the student to drive a poorly maintained vehicle or hired an unqualified instructor.
Private driving schools generally carry insurance policies covering their vehicles, instructors, and any students. Insurance coverage for driver's education programs run by public schools is more complicated, since government agencies have special liability protections.
If the at-fault driver borrowed the vehicle he was driving at the time of the accident, the vehicle's owner can be held liable under negligent entrustment. This means, the owner knew or should have known that the driver wasn't fit to drive and is, therefore, responsible for the resulting damages. Examples of negligent entrustment include:
- Allowing an intoxicated or otherwise impaired driver to get behind the wheel
- Letting an unlicensed driver operate the vehicle
- Lending a car to someone who is not supposed to drive due to a medical condition
- Allowing an elderly person suffering from dementia to drive
- Letting a driver use your vehicle despite his history of reckless driving
Liability for Accidents Caused by Vehicle Defects
If an accident is caused by a defective vehicle component such as faulty brakes or a power steering malfunction, the vehicle manufacturer may be liable for your injuries. Mechanics can be held liable in cases where the vehicle defect is the result of negligent repairs.
Expenses Covered Under a Personal Injury Claim
Louisiana law allows drivers to seek reimbursement for the following types of damages in a personal injury claim:
- Previous accident-related medical care such as emergency room visits, surgery, rehabilitation, and prescription medications
- Future medical care, if the accident has left you permanently disabled
- Loss of wages while you were recovering and unable to work
- Loss of future earning potential, if you're no longer able to work or employed in a lower paying profession due to your injuries
- Pain and suffering
If you're considered partially at fault for the accident, you can still collect compensation for your injuries. However, your settlement will be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault.
Seeking Legal Representation
Insurance companies are generally in no hurry to settle a claim. If you're offered a settlement early on, it's likely for much less than what your case is truly worth. To protect yourself, seek representation from a skilled personal injury attorney. Please call the experienced attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.