Who Can Be Sued In A Car Accident Case?
Various factors can lead to a car accident. Those elements may put the fault on any number of entities. Recovering damages often comes down to knowing who bears responsibility and bringing a suit against the correct party.
One’s Own Insurance Company
Michigan attempts to simplify auto accident claims as a state with a tort threshold and no-fault insurance requirements. These statutes mean that all drivers first pursue compensation from their own insurance companies.
All drivers must have personal injury protection. This coverage cares for medical bills, replacement services and lost wages. A driver must have additional collision or comprehensive policies to cover any vehicle damage.
After an accident, a person makes a claim for damages, whether at fault or not. However, if the insurance company does not fulfill the terms of the insurance agreement or delays doing so, the driver may decide to sue the company to recover due compensation. An insurance company typically has 30 days to pay out benefits after it obtains proof that the claimant is due a payout.
The At-Fault Driver
After a driver recovers everything possible from the insurance company, the person might be able to pursue additional compensation from an at-fault driver. The other driver must bear more than 50% of the fault of the crash. Such payment would be to recover for other specific economic losses and noneconomic damages.
Other economic damages include a serious impairment of body function, physical disfigurement or death of a family member in the accident. A plaintiff has three years to bring the case for personal injury or wrongful death.
A driver may also sue to repair damages to the vehicle up to $3,000. Michigan refers to this limit as a mini-tort claim. Insurance companies usually cover this, so such damages rarely require a lawsuit.
If a Michigan driver has an accident with a driver of another state, that state’s laws may permit filing a claim for economic and noneconomic damages.
Commercial Business or Government Employer
Commercial drivers represent the companies they work for. Those companies have insurance for any accidents. Therefore, a crash victim can file a civil lawsuit to recover damages for economic and noneconomic losses from the business. Such claims also apply if the employer is the government.
Victims will sue the company for perceived negligence. In such cases, noneconomic damages have no cap. Trucking companies must carry a minimum of $750,000 in coverage, meaning they are often ready to cover the cost of accidents.
However, insurers for a business will try to minimize claims. An accident victim should avoid providing statements or signing release forms to the organization or its insurer.
A person might have similar considerations when the at-fault driver is a volunteer. The volunteer may have coverage through the volunteer organization. However, such a case only happens when the volunteer is doing such work in an official capacity on behalf of the organization. If the person is working on personal time in a personal vehicle, the case will likely be between individuals.
Freelance drivers now do a substantial share of transportation work by contracting through rideshare and delivery companies. The gig worker is not an employee. However, a plaintiff may take legal action against the rideshare company in various cases because of negligence.
Considerations for negligence depend on the circumstances. If the rideshare company did anything to create unsafe conditions or allowed a hazardous driver to continue to perform services on its behalf, the company itself may bear some liability.
Another critical factor is that the driver must be in service at the time of the accident. Many vehicles have a decal or dressing on the car but may not be in service at the moment of the collision. A plaintiff would have to prove the driver had the accident while working.
The Government or Road Maintenance Crews
Road maintenance crews and government entities can be liable for car accidents in certain situations. The most common of these is when poor road conditions directly contribute to a crash, such as a pothole causing a distraction or damaged signs creating confusion. Such entities might also be responsible if a plaintiff can prove negligence or systemic issues, such as failure to inspect and address known hazards adequately.
The Car Owner and Rental Companies
In some instances, a car owner may be liable for damages resulting from an accident, even if they were not behind the wheel. This is usually the case when someone else is driving their vehicle with permission or when the owner continues to allow a reckless, negligent or impaired driver to operate their vehicle.
It can also apply when the car’s owner entrusts the vehicle to an unstable or unqualified person or knowingly permits someone to drive that does not have a valid license. Such circumstances are possible when a rental company does not ensure a driver may legally drive a car or rents a car to a person it knows may not operate a vehicle.
A victim may sue a property owner if the person knowingly created or permitted dangerous conditions. Examples include debris in the roadway, decorations that obscure visibility, hedges that block traffic signs or inadequate lighting.
These accidents may involve those that occur on private and public property. If a court finds the property owner knew about, created or failed to repair these hazardous conditions, the property owner may be liable for any resulting damages from the crash.
Vehicle or Parts Manufacturers
The failure of an automotive product can create liabilities for manufacturers of automobiles and vehicle components. This could include situations when a tire blows out, when a defective seat belt fails to latch or when particular engine parts malfunction.
A plaintiff must prove that the manufacturer was negligent in producing or selling a defective product that caused injury or loss. The plaintiff must also demonstrate that there was a reasonable expectation that the product would work correctly and as intended.
When people entrust an auto repair shop to fix their cars, they expect that the vehicles are suitably fit for normal operation on the road. In cases when the shop does not perform the repair correctly, the shop may be liable for any damages resulting from a car accident.
A person on the job driving at the time of an accident would pursue damages from workers’ compensation before any other methods. This form of insurance covers medical bills and lost wages. As with other insurance, a person does not sue for benefits but makes a claim.
However, the company may delay or withhold due payment. Sometimes, an employer may discourage an employee from filing a claim because of not having compensation. In such cases, a worker may need to sue for compensation from either the insurance company or the employer. Potential damages may increase because of additional losses from the delay.
Assistance for Fighting a Car Accident Case
The liability for an automobile crash can fall on any number of parties. Many times, more than one entity bears fault for the collision, and a victim might sue more than one party.
Collecting the evidence and doing the paperwork to pursue all possible compensation is stressful and takes a lot of work. Let the Mike Morse Law Firm help with a free consultation to see what you can do to put your life back together after a crash.