Many auto accident cases are straight forward. The person who is held accountable is the driver of the vehicle that hit you. This is usually because the driver of the car that struck you is also the owner of the vehicle. Liability is usually based on some wrong by the driver such as speeding, going through a red light, or driving while distracted.
Experienced Florida car accident lawyers do work to discover the liability of other parties besides the driver. We explore the liability of other parties for several reasons:
- We want to hold everyone liable for the accident accountable
- The driver may not have insurance or may not enough insurance to cover your damages. Damages include pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, disfigurement, and property damage.
When a crash injures a driver, the driver needs to be able to show that another driver caused the accident unless a third-party can be found liable.
If a car accident hurts a passenger – the passenger can file a claim against the driver of the car they were a passenger in or any other responsible drivers.
When an auto accident harms a pedestrian or bicycle rider, they can file a claim against any responsible driver.
If there are multiple vehicles in the car crash, then multiple drivers may all be liable for your injuries.
In Florida, the owner of the vehicle that caused that accident can be held accountable if a permissive driver used their vehicle. A permissive driver means that the owner of the vehicle gave the driver who caused the accident permission to use their car. In most cases, the driver of the vehicle had permission to use the owner’s car. It’s the rare exception where someone steals a car and then gets into an accident. Usually, the owner will report the theft before too much time lapses
In many cases, the car is the name of the driver and a spouse. In this case, a car accident claim can be filed against the driver-spouse and the owner-spouse.
Financial responsibility/insurance through a car owner
If a child, relative, or friend uses a car with permission of the owner and they are negligent– then the liability of other parties includes the car owners. Additionally, if someone in the owner’s household uses the owner’s car and causes an accident – then the owner’s insurance policy should cover any auto accident damage claim.
Accidents by workers
If the person who rear-ends you, sideswipes you, strikes your vehicle head-on, or causes any type of accident was an employee of a company or business – then the accident victims may be able to file a legal claim against the employer. The liability of other parties can include employers who are generally liable for the acts of their agents including employees.
Product liability claims
Many accidents are due to defective auto parts. Poorly made brakes, steering mechanisms that fail, fuel lines that explode on impact, and other defects can all cause death and serious injuries. If a defective car part causes your injuries, then you have the right to hold responsible parties liable and accountable for your injuries. These cases are product liability cases. Unlike negligence cases, there is no need to prove fault. The key is to show the defective product caused your injuries. Products are normally defective if the design is defective or the workmanship was substandard.
In product liability cases, the injured victim or the family of a deceased victim will file a claim against the manufacturer. Distributors and car retailers may also be liable.
If a repair shop fails to make safe corrective repairs, they may be liable on a theory of negligence.
The state of Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation, local counties, and local towns all have some duty to design safe roads and keep those roads in good repair. Roads should have traffic lights when necessary. They should have proper drainage. The government should clear the road of snow and ice when possible and should close roads if the elements are too dangerous.
The liability of other parties for a car accident may include governmental entities. There are special procedures that a Florida car accident will follow so that notice is given. Governments are not liable for every accident. They may be liable for roads and road conditions they had a duty to control.
Dram Shop Liability
Different states have different laws for holding taverns and anyone who serves liquor liable if the person they sell/serve the liquor causes an accident.
Florida Statutes Section 768.125 provides that anyone who provides liquor to someone who then causes an accident can be liable if the person they serve:
- Is a minor – under 21 years-of-age
- Is “habitually addicted” to alcohol and the person “knowingly” serves that person. This is a fairly tough standard. Many other states just require that that person/entity serve someone who appears to be in a state of intoxication.
Florida uses the doctrine of comparative negligence. This means the jury finds a percentage of fault for each party to the lawsuit (the defendant, the plaintiff, and other defendants). If the plaintiff’s fault was less than the defendants, he/she can claim damages – but the amount of the award reflects the amount of fault. For example, if a case is worth $100,000 and the plaintiff is 10% at fault and a defendant is 90% at fault, the plaintiff receives $90,000. If the plaintiff was 51% at fault, the plaintiff gets nothing. In most cases, the plaintiff is zero percent at fault.