Who Can Be Held Liable for a Car Accident?

Posted on 01/19/24

in News

Determining liability after a car accident occurs can be challenging, but it is crucial. In order for property damage and injury victims to recover liability, fault for the incident must be properly assigned. However, liability is not always straightforward based on the immediately available evidence. There are several factors that can influence liability, and there may be situations where more than one person shares fault.

Typical Car Accidents

With typical car accidents in Oakland, ones involving two or more passenger vehicles, negligent drivers typically hold responsibility for the incident. Determining negligence is done by gathering as much evidence as possible, including photographs and video surveillance, accident reports, statements from eyewitnesses, and more.

As with most accident claims, injury and property damage victims will file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier (more specifically, the injury victim’s insurance carrier typically files the claim against the other party).

The Vehicle’s Owner

There are often questions about who holds liability if the at-fault driver of a vehicle is not the actual owner of the vehicle. In most scenarios, car insurance travels with the vehicle, not the driver. So, if an at-fault driver was operating a vehicle with permission from the owner of the vehicle, then the owner will likely remain liable for the incident. Similar to the process discussed above, injury and property damage victims will file their claims against the insurance of the at-fault driver. There are some exceptions to this, and we encourage you to discuss this scenario with your attorney if it applies to you.

Work Vehicles

If an accident with some type of work vehicle occurs, injury and property damage victims will typically file a claim against the insurance carrier covering the work vehicle involved in the incident. Usually, an owner-operator will be held liable for accident damages so long as the employee was carrying out job-related duties at the time the incident occurred.

What About Shared Fault?

There are situations where shared fault could affect how much compensation a person receives. When an investigation into a vehicle accident uncovers multiple liable parties, the California “pure comparative negligence” system is used.

Under this system, individuals can recover compensation regardless of how much fault they share for causing their own injuries. However, individuals will receive less compensation if they shared fault for the incident, though how much less depends on their level of fault. For example, if a jury determines that an individual was 20% responsible for causing their own vehicle accident injuries, they would likely be awarded 20% less in damages than they would otherwise have received.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Accident Claims

If an accident involving a pedestrian or bicyclist occurs and another driver was at-fault for the incident, then liability will typically fall to the driver. Injured pedestrians and bicyclists typically file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier to recover compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage expenses.

Additional Liable Parties

There may be other parties who could be held liable for a vehicle accident. For example, if a defective roadway design or debris on the roadway causes a crash, entities responsible for the roadway and roadway maintenance could be held liable. This could include construction companies or even a government entity.