You have been hit by someone else somewhere in or around Nashville. You know that the other driver was at fault. You know that normally if you were injured you should be able to sue the driver for negligence and recover financial compensation. But what happens if the at-fault driver didn’t own the vehicle and didn’t have sufficient insurance or no insurance at all to pay damages? Can you sue the owner of the vehicle? The answer is a qualified “yes.” There are several reasons why you, as the plaintiff, are able to sue the owner of the vehicle, the driver, or both.
The devil is in the detail!
The main principle is that an owner may become liable for damages if he / she knowingly allows another person to drive their own vehicle who is unsafe to do so or knowingly allows an unsafe vehicle to be used by someone else.
The challenge, then, if you intend suing after a vehicle accident, is that you need to prove that the owner of the vehicle that was driven actually knew that the person who was driving it was not fit to drive it, or that the accident happened because of a mechanical defect that the owner knew about.
The least complicated situation is the one where an employee is responsible for an accident and injures someone else or damages their property or both. In most cases, the employer would be held responsible for the actions of their employee and would assume liability in the event that the employee acted negligently. The liability would be limited to a situation in which the employee was genuinely at work and therefore under the supervision of the employer. For example, say an employee takes a company vehicle home after a day’s work and causes an accident, the employer would not normally be held responsible unless it could be proven that the driver was known to be a risk.
To give another example, say you are sideswiped by another vehicle on a highway. You are badly injured and your car is a wreck. The driver does not own the vehicle and says that he was given permission to use it by a friend. The driver doesn’t have insurance. The owner does have insurance and registration is in his name. The owner agrees that he allowed use of the vehicle but denies responsibility for the actions of the driver. The injured party may be able to sue the owner if he / she can prove ‘negligent entrustment.’ This is when the owner knows that the person who is using his / her vehicle is unlicensed; too inexperienced to drive that particular vehicle; had a history of dangerous or reckless driving; unfit to drive. If this cannot be proven, then the plaintiff may be restricted to suing the driver or claiming against their own uninsured / underinsured driver insurance policy.
A similar scenario to the above may be played out if a parent or older sibling owns a vehicle and knowingly allows it to be by a minor or younger sibling who is unlicensed; knowingly unfit to drive or inexperienced.
The last situation is the one in which an owner can be sued if a vehicle owned by him / her has a mechanical defect of some sort. Here, the accident must have been caused by the defective part or a defect in the mechanical working of the vehicle, not specifically by the negligent driving of the driver. In addition, it must be proved by the plaintiff that the owner knew that the vehicle may have been unsafe because regular maintenance had not been carried out or knowledge that the vehicle had a defective part.
You may need an experienced Nashville car accident attorney
These scenarios illustrate the fact that many personal injury cases are not at all simple. In the event that you are injured by a driver who claims that the owner was at fault or you believe that the owner, not the driver, was liable, you should not hesitate to call an experienced and determined car accident attorney, Keith Williams at the Keith Williams Law Group in Nashville. You can call the office to arrange an appointment to discuss your case at (615) 313-3999.