Who Can Be Sued in a Car Accident Case?

The aftermath of a car accident can be incredibly overwhelming. Parties of the incident must dedicate time to dealing with insurance companies and tracing back precisely what happened.

Most victims only want to put their lives back together as they were before the crash. The first step is often understanding who to sue for damages. The answer varies depending on the circumstances of the accident and who is at fault.

Vehicle and Parts Manufacturers, Suppliers and Dealers

A person might sue a vehicle manufacturer after a car accident if the collision was due to a defect in the design or manufacturing of the vehicle. In such cases, the manufacturer may be liable for damages, including medical bills, other economic losses and noneconomic injuries, like pain and suffering. Furthermore, if the deficiency is egregious enough, a vehicle owner may also seek punitive damages to punish the company for its negligence or wrongdoing.

An example of an automotive defect that can cause a car accident is a faulty steering system. If the steering becomes unresponsive or fails to turn as one expects, it can lead to the driver losing control of the vehicle and potentially causing an accident. Similarly, faulty or worn-out tires can lead to unexpected and dangerous situations on the road, increasing the risk of an accident.

Additionally, if certain parts of the brake system wear out too quickly due to poor-quality materials or design flaws and these parts cause an accident, this could raise a product liability claim for breach of warranty. Even the dealer who sells the car could be liable if the seller misrepresented the capabilities and safety of the vehicle or its features.

An Employer

An injured person might be able to sue the employer of the at-fault party in a car accident if the person that caused the accident was an employee on the job. An example might be if an employee was using a company car while working and crashed it. Then the plaintiff could sue the employer for damages resulting from that crash.

This situation is also the case if a crash happens with a delivery vehicle. Particularly for companies where transportation is an essential aspect of the business, if the court finds that the company was negligent in hiring or supervising their employees, they may also be liable for any damages incurred.

Employees might be able to sue their own employer after an accident in some cases. Workers’ compensation covers occupational injuries in most instances. However, an employee may gain the right to additional recourse if the actions of an employer were negligent, intentional or malicious.

Road Maintenance Teams

New York City and New York State have Departments of Transportation that are responsible for maintaining local roads. A road maintenance department may be liable for an accident if it failed to care for the streets properly and those conditions caused or contributed to a crash.

For example, inadequate signage or poor planning could create a dangerous situation. If the circumstances lead to a collision, a person may be able to bring a case against the NYC DOT or NYSDOT.

Rideshare Companies

Rideshare drivers are independent contractors and not employees, so suing a rideshare company is unlikely but possible in limited circumstances. In most cases, an accident victim has to bring the suit against the driver, whom the company requires to have a specific level of insurance.

However, if the company is negligent in its practices, a plaintiff might be able to attribute some fault to them. Still, doing so is usually very difficult.

Passengers

The actions of a passenger in one’s vehicle or the other party’s vehicle may contribute to a crash. A person may distract the driver or interfere with the safe operation of the car. This situation could happen to a designated driver or a rideshare driver taking home inebriated passengers.

Gaining substantial compensation in such a case can be difficult if the person lacks many assets. Car insurance follows the vehicle, and passengers are not likely to have insurance on themselves for such instances. However, an injured driver or fellow passenger could file a personal injury suit, and the driver’s insurance may have to cover damages for the passenger’s actions.

The Vehicle Owner

Usually, a driver bears the bulk of the fault, but the owner may sometimes assume responsibility. A parent may be responsible for allowing a minor child to operate the car. Negligent entrustment happens when the automobile owner allows a person with insufficient experience or under the influence to pilot the vehicle.

If the owner does not keep the car in proper working condition, negligent maintenance may come into play. A vehicle that malfunctions unsuspectingly on a driver who is borrowing the car would lay fault at the feet of the owner.

The At-Fault Driver

The first person to consider liable after an accident is the at-fault driver. New Yorkers must carry personal injury protection that covers up to $50,000 per person in medical expenses. Once damages surpass this amount, a victim can sue the negligent motorist.

Such insurance protection only covers 80% of lost earnings for three years up to a maximum of $2,000 and $25 a day for other expenses to care for a household. Since $24,000 a year puts a family of four below the poverty line in New York, it is easy to see how such an amount could quickly become insufficient.

New York follows comparative negligence laws. This standard means defendants only have to cover the costs for their percentage of fault in an accident. A defendant’s legal team can argue every minor point about whether the victim’s actions contributed to any responsibility. A plaintiff has to prepare a solid case to avoid missing out on compensation.

Repair Shops

Mechanics have a duty of care to their customers. Repair shops must use reasonable skill and care while working on vehicles and warn customers about potential dangers from the work. If a technician makes the problem worse, does not do the job a customer paid for or does the wrong work, the shop may be liable for a resulting accident.

Shops often carry garage liability insurance to cover themselves in such cases. A shop customer who has an accident due to negligent work likely has to battle with the insurance company to get compensation.

The Insurer

The insurance company’s job is to provide coverage and compensate accident victims. Still, a company could be derelict in providing compensation or not act in good faith. For example, a company might do the following:

  • Act dishonestly
  • Intentionally undervalue a claim without reason
  • Fail to investigate a claim in a timely manner
  • Breach its obligations in a contract
  • Refuse to pay for legitimate claims

If an insurance company takes any of these actions and withholds payment, a claimant could sue the company for additional damages. The insurer would typically have to pay the compensation with interest.

Fortunately, when a claimant has a lawyer, companies often adjust how they deal with cases because they recognize the law firm knows the rules and is ready to hold them accountable.

A Law Firm That Can Help

Rebounding from a car accident involves recuperating physically, emotionally and financially. If you or a loved one needs legal assistance after a crash, you can get help from a law firm with proven results and over 60 years of trust. Contact Cellino Law for a free case review to get on your way to full recovery.

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