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Negligent entrustment and vicarious liability in car accidents

Lawsuits stemming from automobile accidents in Washington and around the country are generally filed against the negligent drivers involved or their insurance companies, but there are situations where litigation may be initiated against a party not directly involved. The legal principles of negligent entrustment and vicarious liability allow those who have been injured in a motor vehicle accident to sue the owners of vehicles in certain situations.

The owners of vehicles involved in traffic accidents may be sued when they allowed an individual to drive their car, truck or SUV who was likely unable to drive safely. Examples of negligent entrustment include vehicle owners handing over their car keys to an obviously intoxicated individual and parents who allow a child with only rudimentary driving skills to operate a powerful vehicle unsupervised. Employers may also face lawsuits when employees are involved in accidents while driving company vehicles. However, this liability is generally limited to accidents that occur while employees are performing work-related duties.

Automobile manufacturers may face product liability litigation when accidents are caused by a mechanical or electronic defect of some kind, and even local or state highway authorities could be sued when injuries or deaths are caused by poorly designed or inadequately maintained roads. In these situations, personal injury attorneys must establish that the mechanical defect or dangerous road condition concerned was at least a proximate cause of the accident.

Establishing clear liability in personal injury lawsuits is important, and this may be particularly true in fatal motor vehicle accident cases where the damages sought are often significant. While accident investigations may provide all of the evidence needed to establish negligent behavior in many cases, attorneys could conduct inquiries of their own when police reports are inconclusive.

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