In automobile law, there is something called “vicarious liability.” Vicarious liability is the idea that if someone has your permission to drive your vehicle, should they be at fault in a car accident, then you – as the vehicle owner – should be held liable for any resulting damages or injuries. Vicarious liability does however, have some limitations. Knowing what those limitations are and what they mean to you is very important before you hand your keys over to another driver.
Vicarious liability and employees
If you lend your car to an employee and give them permission to use your car under the scope of their employment duties, and they are in an at-fault accident, then you (the employer) would likely be held liable for any damages and injuries. For vicarious liability to apply, however, the employee must be acting within the scope of their employment. Just because they were driving your car does not automatically make you liable.
For instance, if they were driving your car to make a delivery and were in an at-fault accident, then you would be generally be held liable for those damages and injuries. If, however, they completed their delivery and stopped off to run a personal errand, then you may not be liable for any damages or injuries. So if your employee is in an accident, before you assume that you are liable through vicarious liability, it is important to speak with a qualified St. Louis auto accident attorney to ensure that they were performing under the scope of their employment.
If you lend your car to your child
If you lend your car to your minor child and they are in an at-fault accident, then you would likely be liable to cover the costs of any damage or injuries sustained. If they had your permission to use the vehicle, those costs generally become your responsibility.
Rental car exceptions
An exception to the law of vicarious liability is when you are driving in a rental car. When you drive a rental car in Missouri, then the Graves Amendment takes precedence over the state’s vicarious liability laws. The Graves Amendment is a federal law that says that rental car companies cannot be held liable if those who rent their vehicles are in an at-fault accident. If the renter is liable for the accident, then they are responsible for any damages and injuries to the other driver, as well as to the rental car. That is why, if you are going to rent a car, it is imperative that you check your auto insurance policy to ensure that you have coverage when you rent a car. Don’t just assume that you will be covered.
Vicarious liability or respondeat superior is a law that states that if someone is driving your vehicle with your express consent, then you are (in most cases) liable to pay for any damages or injuries if they are at-fault while in an accident. Although there are exceptions to the rule, it is important to understand how lending your car keys to someone else can affect you. If someone has been in an accident in your car, it is imperative that you seek the advice of a qualified attorney to protect your legal interests.