Liability in car accidents is often more complicated than it seems. If someone hits you, you may think that person alone is liable for the car accident, but many other parties could face liability. In most car accidents, the at-fault driver’s insurance company accepts the majority of liability, but insurance adjusters exist to minimize liability, so many other factors may come into play.
Ultimately, the details of your accident will determine which parties can be held liable in your situation.
The At-Fault Driver
In almost every car accident, the at-fault driver will face some liability for the accident-related damages. Drivers may be at fault if they are negligent, reckless, or intentional in causing an accident. For example, a driver who runs a stop sign, drives drunk, or runs someone off the road would be at fault for a car accident and face liability.
The Insurance Company
If the at-fault driver has car insurance, the insurance company will face liability for the accident – up to the terms of the driver’s policy. If the at-fault driver causes $5,000 of damage, for instance, and carries $10,000 of liability insurance, the insurance company will be liable for the $5,000.
If the driver causes $15,000 of damage, on the other hand, the insurance company would be liable for the policy maximum of $10,000, and the at-fault driver would retain liability for the rest.
Important note: If the at-fault driver was at work at the time of the crash, their employer may face liability for the car accident. Still, employers have insurance companies, too, so you will likely be dealing with the employer’s insurance company and policy limits. In truck accident cases, insurance companies are fierce and policy limits are high. Having an attorney can help you fight for what you deserve.
The Vehicle Manufacturer
Sometimes, vehicle manufacturers face liability for both single-car and multiple-vehicle accidents due to defective cars and car parts. If an at-fault driver’s brakes fail, for example, they may not face liability because there is nothing they could have done to prevent the accident. Instead, the manufacturer would face liability for selling the driver a car with faulty brakes.
Of course, if the at-fault driver failed to maintain the brakes, they may still face liability.
Unfortunately, many accidents are tied to vehicle recalls and defective cars and car parts. If your vehicle fails you during a crucial moment, and you have maintained the vehicle properly, the manufacturer may face liability for your accident.
The Party in Charge of Maintaining Roadways
We expect the roads we drive on to be reasonably safe, but sometimes, the road itself is more hazardous than the drivers around us. If you lose control of your vehicle or crash because of a huge pothole, for instance, the governmental agency or entity in charge of maintaining the road may face liability.
Cities, counties, and other parties may also be liable for:
- Unmarked construction zones (e.g., unlevel lanes)
- Confusing street signs
- Debris in the road
- Poorly designed roads (e.g., narrow roads, roads without shoulders)
- Bad instructions from traffic controllers
Can a Car Accident Be Both Parties at Fault?
Yes. New York recognizes contributory negligence, which means both parties can be at fault for a car accident. For example, consider a situation in which you were speeding but someone else failed to yield. Even though the driver who failed to use caused the accident, you might have avoided the collision if you were driving at the speed limit.
If you try to file suit against the at-fault driver, their insurance company will probably highlight your speed to avoid liability.
In situations like this, insurance companies sometimes split fault by percentages. The at-fault driver may be 80% liable for the accident because they failed to yield, but your speed at the time of the crash means you are 20% liable. If the car accident cost $10,000, the driver who failed to yield would owe you $8,000, and you (or your insurance company) would need to handle the other $2,000.
Determining Liability in a Car Accident
After a car accident, every party wants to avoid liability. Nevertheless, multiple parties can be liable, including (but not limited to):
- The other driver
- Both drivers’ insurance companies
- A commercial driver’s employer
- The vehicle manufacturer
- The city, county, or party in charge of roadway maintenance
With all these possibilities, determining liability is extremely important. Insurance adjusters get paid to determine liability, but they are also on the insurance company’s side. If you have been in a car accident, you need someone who is on your side, too.
Fortunately, you’ve already found the Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli. We are available 24/7 to evaluate your case and help you determine who is at fault and how much compensation you may be entitled to. With over 2 decades of legal experience, Attorney Charles R. Gueli can help you take the next step.
All you need to do is call us at (516) 628-6402 or contact us online and schedule your free consultation today.