Third-Party Liability in Car Crash Claims

Georgia has one of the country’s lowest auto insurance minimum requirements. Therefore, many Georgia drivers do not have enough insurance to cover all the losses in a catastrophic injury claim. The medical bills alone in such claims usually exceed $100,000. 

Victims in this situation usually have two basic options, especially if they do not have UM/UIM (uninsured/underinsured motorist) coverage. They can file separate collection claims against the tortfeasor (negligent driver), who is most likely judgment-proof, or they can look for a responsible third party with deep pockets and additional insurance.

So, in many cases, establishing legal responsibility for damages is only part of the process. A good Marietta personal injury lawyer goes the extra mile and obtains meaningful compensation in vehicle collision matters. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Employer Liability

Commercial operators, most notably truck drivers, are paid by the trip, not by the hour. So, they have a strong financial incentive to transport as much cargo as possible as quickly as possible. That is the main reason large truck crashes have increased by about 40% in recent years. 

As mentioned, individual truckers and other commercial drivers often have limited insurance. Fortunately, the respondeat superior theory usually applies in these cases. Employers are vicariously liable for damages in personal injury matters if:

  • Employee: Generally, truck drivers are owner-operators or other non-employees for tax and most other purposes. However, truckers are employees for negligence purposes because the shipping, transportation, or other company has some limited control over these drivers.
  • Scope of Employment: Once upon a time, this respondeat superior prong was limited to situations like a regular delivery driver on a regular delivery route. Employers were not vicariously liable if a substitute driver caused a wreck or if the driver stopped for a snack. Now, the law is much broader. Generally, actions are within the scope of employment if they benefit the employer.

Respondeat superior may be even more important in Uber and Lyft accident claims. Usually, personal auto insurance policies exclude commercial losses.

Alcohol Provider Liability

Employers are vicariously liable for wrecks because they have a chance to stop collisions before they happen. Commercial alcohol providers, like clubs and restaurants, have this same chance. So, these establishments are also vicariously liable for damages if they illegally sell alcohol to someone who causes a wreck. Illegal sales include:

  • Underage: Generally, providers who sell alcohol to people under 21 are vicariously liable as a matter of law. The age-old “s/he looked older” defense usually doesn’t hold up in court. Liability usually attaches even if the patron used a fake ID.
  • Intoxicated: To establish intoxication at the time of sale, a Marietta personal injury lawyer typically uses physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes and unsteady balance. The burden of proof is relatively low in these situations. So, attorneys don’t need much evidence to establish vicarious liability.

Non-commercial providers, such as party hosts, might also be vicariously liable for damages under a separate theory like negligent entrustment. The dram shop law also applies in other cases, such as assaults, if alcohol substantially caused the victim’s damages.

Owner Liability

Frequently, children under 18 borrow their parents’ cars. Parents could be vicariously liable for car crash damages in these cases. Georgia courts apply the family purpose doctrine in these cases. Usually, there is a presumption that the child used the vehicle with the parent’s permission. That permission means vicarious liability.

Owner liability may also apply in commercial cases, like U-Haul truck wrecks. These claims are more complex because of the federal Graves Amendment.

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