There is a general tendency to think of a car accident as a situation involving two drivers—and for one to assume that liability (who’s at fault) belongs to one of those two directly-involved motorists. It’s commonly believed that one driver is at fault, and the other is a victim.
Some situations arise where another party is partially or fully responsible for the collision. It’s even possible that the at-fault party wasn’t even at the scene of the accident. This outside party, a person or group not directly involved in the crash, is known as a third party. When can a third party be held liable for damages from a car accident?
If a third party is at fault for a motor vehicle crash, the situation will inevitably be more complicated from a legal standpoint. Pursuing legal action against a third party responsible for your injuries requires an experienced, practiced, and skillful lawyer. It’s imperative that you involve an experienced car accident attorney that you trust as soon as possible following your injury incident.
Your lawyer will have the time necessary to carefully examine the details of your case and help you file claims properly and within all legal deadlines when you get them involved early on. Holding the correct party accountable becomes even more critical of an undertaking when you’ve been seriously injured and are struggling to bear the financial consequences.
Third Parties That May Be Liable for a Car Accident
Before we discuss the types of third parties that may be liable for a motor vehicle crash, you should know that situations involving third parties are more complex and uncommon than cases involving only two drivers. Filing an insurance claim or lawsuit against a third party isn’t possible in every car accident scenario. Your car accident lawyer will need to conduct an extensive and exhaustive investigation to prove the third party’s liability if they suspect that someone else may be responsible for causing the accident.
Establishing a link between your accident and the third party’s actions is not an easy task. In many cases, the party liable for your accident and injuries may not yet be aware of the repercussions of their negligence. It may be the case that an act of negligence occurring weeks or months earlier was the cause of your collision. In cases such as these, car accident lawyers have an immense responsibility to examine every detail and analyze all possible factors leading to the crash that caused injuries.
Listed below are a few examples of third parties that might be deemed as having contributed to an accident.
- Employers: An employer may be deemed as liable for a crash if it occurs while a motorist is driving a company vehicle or performing job duties. This is called vicarious liability. Employers may not be considered at fault if the motorist was running a personal errand, even if it occurred during working hours.
- Vehicle or Auto Parts Manufacturer: When a vehicle, part, or system malfunctions on the road due to a defect, a manufacturing company may be to blame. You may be able to file a claim against a negligent company for an accident caused by a defectively designed or produced product.
- Auto Mechanic or Vehicle Repair Shop: Your lawyer may be able to prove that the injuries that you suffered are attributable to an auto repair shop’s negligence. Your attorney may argue this if one of its mechanics failed to fix a problem correctly, overlooked a potential safety concern with your car, incorrectly installed a part, or damaged your vehicle while servicing it.
- Owner of the Vehicle: If the person driving at the time of the crash didn’t own the vehicle, then there are circumstances when the owner instead of the driver may be at fault. One example of a situation where this might occur is if the driver was a minor.
- Passengers: A passenger is at fault for the accident in some rare cases. For example, an injured plaintiff may be able to hold a passenger liable for a crash if they grab the wheel or do anything else that prevents the driver from safely operating their vehicle. Situations like this most commonly occur when teen or intoxicated motorists or passengers are involved.
- Bars or Restaurants: You may be able to hold a bar or restaurant liable if a drunk driver injures you. Illinois’ dram shop law allows for injured individuals to take legal action against the establishment that overserved an intoxicated person alcohol.
- Government Body: An injured driver may be eligible to file a claim against the government if a city or state government entity fails in its duty to provide safe conditions for motorists. This type of claim may apply if poorly-maintained city streets, for instance, were found to have been the cause of your accident.
Determining Liability When a Third Party Causes a Car Crash
When the question of liability extends beyond just the drivers directly involved in the collision, collecting substantiating evidence to support your claim becomes even more essential. Your car accident attorney will need to devote considerable time and effort to give your case the best chance of success. All factors related to your case will need to be thoroughly analyzed to determine exactly what happened.
Police reports, photographs of the damage, traffic camera footage, and other evidence usually used to prove liability in a car accident may not be enough to connect a third party’s actions to the crash. Your lawyer will need to go further into documentation like company records, invoices, receipts, logbooks, any communication exchanged, a company or entity’s history of safety violations, and other relevant sources of proof. Witness and expert or specialist testimony may also be necessary to interpret and validate certain aspects of the case.
At Schweickert Ganassin Krzak Rundio, LLP, our car accident attorneys have the experience necessary to help you win even the most complicated cases. If you were injured in an accident caused by a third party, we can help you file a claim or lawsuit that will give you the best chance of getting the compensation you are entitled to under the law.
Because vehicle collisions involving third parties can be extremely challenging, we believe it’s best to begin with a case evaluation meeting to look at the strengths and weaknesses of your case. During our first meeting, one of our car accident lawyers will listen to your story and ask questions to get a better understanding of exactly what happened to cause your injuries. We will provide an honest opinion about the legal options you have for recovering damages and what difficulties you may encounter in doing so.
We never charge a fee to discuss your case and provide you with experienced, candid legal advice. If we mutually agree to partner and move forward in filing a claim against an at-fault third party, you can be assured that we will give your case the attention and care it deserves. Helping you achieve financial stability is our goal.