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Who’s Liable for an Accident?

— March 30, 2022

The liability rules for accidents include such complex situations as defective products where liability can be assigned to manufacturers, distributors, and even retail outlets that sell the defective products.

The answer of who is liable for an accident isn’t always simple. In a car crash case, the obvious one is “the vehicle driver who primarily caused the accident.” However, what if the driver borrowed the vehicle from a relative who didn’t maintain it properly? If equipment failure caused the accident, the vehicle owner would probably be liable.

Vehicle accidents can result in the driver, owner, insurance company, or manufacturer of defective parts being held accountable for the accident. Accidents on private property can involve the owner, equipment manufacturer, and companies and organizations, both private and public. 

There are no suitable answers that apply universally. That’s why lawyers often fight over legal interpretations of liability in court.

What Does Liability Mean?

Liability is the legal term of assigning blame for an accident. In auto accidents, one of the drivers is most often declared liable. Auto accidents are usually caused by one of the following excesses:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Failure to maintain vehicle equipment
  • Following too closely
  • Violating a person’s or vehicle’s right-of-way
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving recklessly
  • Driving in the wrong lane
  • Rear-ending another vehicle

The notion of liability covers all personal injury cases, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and even sports injuries. According to Galveston personal injury lawyers, the question of liability arises in all accidents and injury situations, including: 

  • Slips and falls on someone’s property
  • Pedestrian accidents involving cars
  • City, school, and commercial buses
  • Bicycles
  • Dog bites
  • Work accidents

For example, if you have guests over and one of them trips on a cable in your house, a lawyer could establish your liability in the context of negligence and have you pay compensation to the victim.

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Minor accidents occur every day, and not everyone sues everybody else. However, an attorney and a personal injury claim might be necessary when the injuries you suffered led to medical bills, lost wages, major lifestyle changes, disability, material losses, etc. 

Accident Liability and Insurance Issues

In traffic accidents, determining liability is unnecessary, except in extreme cases when insurance doesn’t cover all the damages. When drivers allow other drivers to use their vehicles, most insurance companies provide protective coverage to the driver.

Legal and insurance experts agree that uninsured or underinsured motorist protection is an option many insurance companies offer their policyholders. This protection shifts liability to the policyholder when the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance or sufficient resources to pay an injury claim. 

In addition, these insurance provisions provide insurance for medical bills, property damage, and lost wages to you and your passengers.

Discussing Liability With an Attorney

The liability rules for accidents include such complex situations as defective products where liability can be assigned to manufacturers, distributors, and even retail outlets that sell the defective products. Moreover, liability is often assigned due to attorneys’ thorough investigations that ferret unexpected parties to share liability.

It can be difficult to determine liability in complex cases. For instance, in car accidents, both drivers and car owners are the first to be investigated as defendants in a lawsuit. 

A car accident attorney can help you figure out the person or multiple parties who share the blame. The attorney can also help you by negotiating insurance settlements.

Other types of accidents require even more complex investigations and case building. For example, a premises liability case combined with trespassing might become a difficult lawsuit. 

In addition, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse masked as accidents, wrongful death, attractive nuisance cases, or defective product matters require tailored management from a specialized law firm. 

Updating Liability Laws

When it comes to auto accidents, the law is currently wrestling with the concept of liability for autonomous vehicles, commonly known as self-driving cars. 

Theoretically, lawsuits and liability for accidents will be dramatically reduced, but lawyers and law enforcement officials will still struggle to assign liability based on the same old set of laws. 

Unfortunately, accidents will continue to happen even if they greatly drop in volume. However, changes to strict liability are recommended to reduce the number of car accident-related lawsuits.

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