Third Party Responsibility for Injuries Suffered
In the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, it’s customary to look to the at-fault driver to recover compensation for any losses. In New Jersey, with its “no-fault” auto insurance laws, even though you file a claim with your own insurer, your insurance company will ultimately look to the other driver and/or his insurer for reimbursement. But what if the other driver has no insurance, or only has coverage for property damage? Fortunately, there are other avenues you can pursue for compensation—third parties who may potentially have legal responsibility:
- Employers—If the person who caused the accident was working at the time of the crash, you may be able to include the employer as a defendant under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. A worker who causes an accident on his or her commute home will not impose liability on the employer, unless the worker took a detour to conduct some activity on behalf of the company or employer.
- Vehicle owners—If the person driving the other vehicle (and causing the accident) was borrowing the car, you may be able to bring legal action against the owner, under a legal principle known as "vicarious liability." Typically, though, you’ll need to prove that the owner knew or should have known that the actual driver lacked the necessary skills or experienced to be behind the wheel, or had a reputation/history for engaging in reckless, irresponsible or poor driving. This approach is often available when a parent allows a teenage driver to take the car.
- Drunk drivers—If the person who caused the accident was under the influence at the time of the crash, you may be able to sue the person or establishment serving the alcohol under dram shop or social host liability principles.
- Roadway defects—If the accident resulted from potholes, uneven roadways, loose gravel, water or ice on the road, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the municipality responsible for maintaining the roadway
- Product defects—If the accident was caused by defective brakes, steering, tires or other vehicle components, you may have a product liability claim against the designer, manufacturer, wholesaler or retailer.