Wellborn Paluch, LLP Blog

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Owner of a Vehicle can be held liable for the Negligent Acts of Drivers Operating their Vehicle

In New York State, the owner of a vehicle can be held vicariously liable for injuries caused by the negligent and/or reckless conduct of a driver of their vehicle, provided that the driver operated the vehicle with the knowledge and permission of the owner.  Knowledge and permission can be implied from prior or frequent use of the automobile.  

In fact, this is a fact typically uncontested and conceded by the defense.  The main purpose for the law on this is to make sure that the insurance carrier covering the vehicle cannot deny coverage on the claim, and thus refuse to pay for the injuries and pain and suffering of the victim, or no fault benefits to those in the at fault vehicle who are injured, based on the driver not being specifically listed on the insurance policy.   Though a matter of course in most situations, it is very important for the victim's attorney to include the owner as a party to the lawsuit, should one become necessary.  


Essentially, liability is imputed upon the owner of the vehicle, the same as if they were driving at the time of the incident. This is called "vicarious liability".  A similar situation arises when an automobile accident is caused by a truck driver/tractor trailer or driver of a commercial vehicle. In most instances the driver will be an employer and/or agent of a company which owns the vehicle. Or even if they own  the vehicle, they may be an independent contractor of the company for which they are hauling good.  Where there is an employer or contracting company, either party will typically be held vicariously liable for the negligent acts of the driver. This in turn fully brings in all applicable insurance coverages. Of course, it takes an experienced personal injury attorney who has handled trucking accidents and accidents involving commercial vehicles to know all of the parties to be notified, and what evidence needs to be identified and preserved in the immediate aftermath(trucking logs, bills of lading, delivery receipts along the trucking route, and on and on...).  

To know all of the legal implications involving these types of situations that are common place to personal injury auto-accident cases.  These types of claims are often complicated to defend and take the skill and experience of a seasoned attorney. If you are in this situation, do not hesitate to contact a Buffalo, New York personal injury attorney today.

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