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Vehicle owners and accident liability

California residents should be aware that there are situations in which they may be held liable for damage done to or by their vehicle even when they are not driving. This is regardless of whose behavior caused the actual damage.

If vehicle owners lend their vehicle to someone they know is not a safe driver, they can still be responsible for paying for the damages caused by the unsafe driver. Vicarious liability allows both the owner and driver of a vehicle to be sued due to the owner's negligent entrustment of the driver. A prime example of this theory is the Family Car Doctrine, which permits parent of irresponsible teenage drivers to be sued, even if the teenager is not covered under the automobile insurance policy.

The same principle applies to employers and employees. An employer can be named as a co-defendant in a lawsuit for accidents that occurred due to the negligent behavior of an employee. In these cases, the theory of vicarious liability is limited to the accidents that involve company vehicles and that occurred while work duties were being performed. It is generally not applied to accidents that occurred while the employee was using the company vehicle for their own personal use.

Manufacturers of vehicles can also be held liable for damages. For example, if a defective vehicle is the reason an accident occurred, a product liability lawsuit can be pursued against the manufacturer. There are also state laws that allow lawsuits that place the blame for inadequately constructed or repaired motorways, such as streets, bridges and highways, on state highway departments and their officers.

The owners of vehicles involved in accidents can sometimes be held accountable for damages. A personal injury attorney should be consulted if there is a question of who is the negligent party.

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