In the vast majority of traffic accidents, the driver who causes the crash is financially liable for damages related to injuries and loss. However, some situations exist where accident victims have grounds to claim damages from more than one party.
If you have suffered injuries in a car accident in Louisiana, it’s in your best interest to consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Until you have the opportunity to meet with a lawyer, this guide provides insight into other potential parties who could partially or wholly be financially liable for damages in a car accident in Louisiana.
It depends. In Louisiana, insurance typically follows the vehicle when someone besides the car owner is operating the vehicle. Yet, in some situations, the owner’s insurance will not cover an accident caused by another driver. When a vehicle’s owner is partially or fully financially liable for damages from an accident, their liability only extends to liability policy limits. Each vehicle in Louisiana must have:
In Louisiana, those drivers who have the minimum liability coverage are also covered when driving another person’s car if they are a family member of the policyholder.
Factors that often influence whether an accident victim can also hold a car owner liable include:
If the driver of the vehicle does not get express or implied permission for use, a good chance exists that the owner will not be liable for damages from an accident. This occurs when a stranger steals a vehicle, but can also happen when a family member “borrows” a car without permission. The owner’s insurance company will likely deny the claim in this situation.
Sometimes people without a driver’s license or with a suspended license drive another individual’s car and cause an accident. In these situations, car owners might not be liable unless they knew the driver was unlicensed or should have known the driver was not licensed. Many insurance policies have clauses that void coverage when an unlicensed driver is behind the wheel. This does not necessarily absolve the owner from liability, but it does complicate the claim.
Car owners often avoid liability when an individual uses their car and causes an accident after consuming alcohol or using drugs. In a situation where the owner knew the driver was engaging in drunk or drugged driving, the owner might share some liability. These situations are delicate and vary greatly, so it’s necessary to have an attorney evaluate your case.
If the owner of a car lets someone incompetent operate their vehicle, they open themselves up to liability under the notion of negligent entrustment. This applies to drunk and drugged drivers, but also to inexperienced drivers, elderly drivers, sick drivers, and drivers who have a long history of reckless driving and other traffic violations. The idea is that if the car owner knew the driver was incompetent, he or she should not have let the driver use the vehicle.
First and foremost, you must report the accident to your insurance company regardless of fault. Most auto insurance policies contain policies that require you to report an accident if your coverage might apply. This also ensures that you can take advantage of any add-on coverage you have purchased, such as medical payments coverage or personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Additionally, if the owner’s insurance policy has low limits that do not cover all the damages from your car accident, your mandatory uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UI) coverage might kick in. Failure to report the accident to your carrier could lead to issues later on.
After a car accident, filing an insurance claim when the at-fault driver is not the car owner follows the same process. Yet, the things above can muddy the situation and lead to complications. You can expect insurance companies for the driver and the owner will fight over liability because both want to avoid financial liability.
It’s always best to contact an attorney after suffering car accident injuries, so a lawyer can evaluate your claim and offer guidance. This is even more important when the driver does not own the vehicle. You need experienced legal counsel in your corner who knows how to handle the complexities that come with these types of cases, giving you the best chance of recovering damages.
If you get in a car accident with a driver who does own the car, you might name the driver, the car owner, or both in a personal injury claim. Yet, some situations call for possibly naming other third parties. They include:
Employees drive company cars all the time and sometimes cause an accident. In these situations, the owner is technically a business, not an individual. Although you may take action against the driver, it’s highly likely you will also take action against their employer. If you are in a company vehicle and another motorist causes a crash, your first step will likely be to file a workers’ compensation claim to receive benefits. An attorney can help you seek damages beyond workers’ comp benefits.
Government entities, including the State of Louisiana, its cities, and its parishes, are responsible for maintaining roads, so they are safe for driving. This includes clearing debris after a storm, fixing potholes and sinkholes, and ensuring traffic signs and signals are in place and working correctly. If the failure to maintain roads leads to a car accident, you might also have grounds to name a government entity in a lawsuit with the driver and owner of the vehicle.
Another example of third-party liability in Louisiana car accidents occurs when the accident results from a defective vehicle or defective car part. These situations are rare, but they do occur. Auto manufacturers make critical recalls on their vehicles all the time. When a defective car or car part leads to a mechanical issue that causes an accident, you have grounds to seek damages from the manufacturer, dealer, or any other party responsible for bringing the car to market. If a known defect causes an issue, and the owner did not take steps to address the recall, they could still share liability.
Car accidents can lead to financial hardship and emotional distress on top of the physical pain of injury. Charbonnet Law Firm has the experience and resources to investigate your accident and determine which party or parties you should name in your insurance claim and lawsuit, if applicable. When you identify all the parties who could potentially be liable for damages, you increase the likelihood of recovering the maximum amount of compensation for your car accident and injuries. Contact Charbonnet Law Firm online or call us at 504-294-5118 to discuss the details of your Louisiana car accident and injuries.
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