Drivers in New Jersey should understand that there are times when they could be found responsible for an accident even when someone else was driving their car. This circumstance is known as vicarious liability.

This concept mandates that both the person who was driving the car and the owner may be named in a personal injury lawsuit if, for example, the owner let someone drive his or her vehicle despite clear evidence that the individual was an unsafe driver. A related theory, the Family Car Doctrine, states that the parents can be held liable for crashes that their minor children cause even when the minors’ names are not listed on the insurance policy.

Under the doctrine of respondent superior (“let the master answer”), employers can be held responsible for any accidents that their employees get in while driving company vehicles. This only applies to work-related use of the vehicle, not in cases where the driver was running a personal errand.

Vicarious liability can play a role in cases in which a vehicle defect contributed to a crash. The owner could be guilty if the defect was something about which he or she should have reasonably known, or the vehicle manufacturer could be held liable.

Any number of elements can factor into motor vehicle crashes. Some laws allow victims to sue state highway departments if, for instance, the negligent handling of a road construction project partially caused the crash. To learn just who was at fault and how much they might be eligible for in damages, victims may wish to schedule a legal evaluation. A lawyer may even help build up the case and negotiate on victims’ behalf for a settlement covering all losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.