How You Can Hold a Vehicle Owner Liable for Your Auto Accident Injuries in California, Even if the Owner Wasn’t Driving

Generally, any time you are suing to recover compensation for your injuries, you are asserting that the defendants either engaged in some sort of intentional misconduct or, more commonly, were negligent. Typically, in an auto accident, your lawsuit pursues the other driver for operating his vehicle in a negligent way and causing the crash. In California, though, there may be other people and/or entities who were negligent in causing your accident, meaning that those additional individuals and/or entities may be liable and owe you payment for your damages. To find out how best to go about pursuing them to get the full recovery you deserve, be sure to retain an experienced Oakland car accident attorney to handle your case.

A tragic East Bay crash spawned a case that is an example of this kind of lawsuit. J.H. suffered a seizure while driving a Toyota pickup truck in Danville. Under the effects of the seizure, J.H. ran a red light while going 62 mph in a 45-mph zone. The pickup slammed into a Dodge SUV. The crash killed both the 51-year-old driver of the SUV, E.P. and her 72-year-old mother, M.D.

In a lot of incidents like that, the family of the deceased would be able to pursue J.H. and his insurer… and only J.H. and his insurer. This case, however, was not like most cases. The Toyota pickup truck that J.H. was driving at the time of the fatal crash was not 100% his own; it belonged jointly to him and his father, D.H.

Those facts allowed the family to pursue the father on the legal theory of negligent entrustment. D.H. wasn’t negligent for directly causing the accident. D.H. was negligent and therefore liable, according to the family, by letting his son possess a vehicle that he co-owned, and the keys to that vehicle, despite his knowing that his son had a history of grand mal seizures that could cause him to lose control of his body or even black out completely.

The keys to a successful negligent entrustment case in California

In a case where you need to seek damages from someone that you allege was liable due to negligent entrustment, you have to prove several things to the jury. You have to show that the driver was negligent in causing the crash, that this additional defendant owned or possessed the vehicle the at-fault driver used in the crash, that the owner knew or should have known that the driver was not fit to drive, that the owner nevertheless permitted the driver to operate the vehicle and that the driver’s “unfitness to drive was a substantial factor in causing” the harm you or your loved one suffered. E.P. and M.D.’s family had the necessary evidence required to establish each of these five things, which is why a trial court ordered D.H. to pay $388,400 and the appeals court later upheld that judgment and damages award.

When it comes to winning a negligent entrustment case like this, you don’t always have to have proof of things the defendant did; sometimes winning evidence can come from showing what the defendant did not do. For example, in the case against D.H., the appeals court concluded that there was sufficient evidence that D.H. permitted his son to drive the truck. The evidence that supported that essential element, according to the court, included the father’s failure “to take any action to dissuade” the son from driving. That included things like his failure to take away the keys to the truck, the failure to cancel the insurance policy on the truck and his failure to remove his name from the truck’s registration. All of these were things the father failed to do, and all of these were important pieces when it came to proving that the father was negligent and liable.

So, what does all this mean for you? They mean that there may be more people liable for your auto accident injuries than just the other driver, and it means there are various legal tools available to obtain the compensation you need from all the people and/or entities responsible. For the skillful legal representation your case deserves, count on the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. Attorney Fuerch is an experienced Oakland car accident attorney and has been helping injured drivers and their families for many years. To learn more, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

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