Negligence and Auto Insurance Claim

Remember! The insurance company’s liability is derivative. It stems from the liability of the person whom it insures.

The fact that insurance is involved doesn’t change the picture. The car owner or operator is the one primarily responsible for damages.

Automobile operator. If the driver of an automobile is negligent and the injured person is not negligent, then obviously the driver is the person responsible for the injury. Often, however, The comparative negligence rule applies: in Arkansas—to claims against rail-roads; in Iowa—to claims against common carriers; in Tennessee—when plaintiff’s negligence is only a remote cause of the injury.

the driver lacks the funds to pay for the damages, and the injured person has to look to others such as the car owner or the driver’s employer to pay damages.

Automobile owners usually not responsible. The owner of a motor vehicle is liable only for his own negligence. Apart from some special law enacted by the legislature, ownership of a vehicle does not make the owner liable simply because the driver was negligent. In the absence of a special law, the owner who is not present in the car is liable only if the car is being driven by his agent or employee.
Analogy
If you loan your gun to a friend and the friend injures some-body because of his carelessness, you would not expect to be liable simply because you owned the gun.

As a matter of common sense, you as the owner of the auto-mobile would not be liable for the negligence of the driver unless the legislature, by special law, said so.

If you come from one of those states which impose liability on the owner—even though he isn’t in the car and even though he is not negligent—you may get the impression that all owners of motor vehicles are liable for all injuries. That is far from the truth.

Of course an owner might be liable for permitting someone to operate a vehicle with a known defect or for turning the vehicle over to an incompetent or an intoxicated driver.

Some states make owner liable. In fifteen states, the legislatures or courts have changed the general rule that the owner is not liable.

In the following eight states, an owner is liable for the operation of an automobile if it is being driven with the permission or consent of the owner:
California* Idaho** Michigan New York
Florida Iowa Minnesota Rhode Island
* Limited to §5,000 for injuries to one person, §10,000 for injuries in one accident, plus §5,000 for property damage.
** Limited to §5,000 for injuries to one person, §10,000 for injuries in one accident, plus §1,000 for property damage.


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