In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding car accidents, motorcycle crashes, and personal injury cases, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Automobile Accidents & Negligence: When You Are Considered Liable For Another Motorist’s Actions
In most automobile accidents, the primary issue is determining which motorist is responsible for causing the accident. In general, if one motorist is negligent, if they did not exercise caution while driving or use reasonable care, then he or she will be considered at fault in the accident. However, in some particular scenarios, New Hampshire state law can assign fault to an individual who was not operating the vehicle or even present when the accident occurred. While this might sound surprising, there are a number of scenarios in which this can happen.
When an Employee Is Operating the Automobile
New Hampshire state law ensures that employers are held responsible for wrongful acts, including negligent driving, when an employee is the one who commits them while the employee is conducting job duties. This legal theory is often referred to as “imputed negligence” or “vicarious liability”.
For example, if you are a business owner whose employee runs through a stop sign and strikes another vehicle while driving an automobile owned by your business, then you will be held legally liable for the damages your employee has caused.
When Allowing Another Person to Drive Your Vehicle
In a handful of states, an automobile owner is considered legally responsible for the negligent actions of any individual who is using their automobile with their express permission. However, state laws do not mandate that either party have an existing relationship like that of an employee and their employer. Rather, in states that enact such laws, once a vehicle’s owner gives another person permission to drive their car, they are on the so called “legal hook” for their actions.
When Your Children Are Driving Your Automobile
In most states, a parent is considered legally liable for their child’s negligent actions in a motor vehicle when they give them permission to use the family car. New Hampshire is one of these states. There are several legal theories and forms of laws that enable this to happen:
§ Negligent Entrustment – If a parent gives their minor child permission to use the family vehicle knowing that their child is inexperienced, incompetent, or reckless, then the parent is considered liable for any damages caused while their child is driving. This legal theory is referred to as negligent entrustment.
§ Family Purpose Doctrine – Many states have adopted the family purpose doctrine. In these states, when an individual buys and maintains a vehicle for general use by the family, the vehicle’s owner (usually dad or mom) is liable for any negligent actions by any family member who uses the automobile. This is the legal theory that New Hampshire follows.
§ The Signing of a Driver’s License Application For a Minor – In a handful of states, there are laws that state the individual who signs a driver’s license application for a minor is considered legally responsible for any negligent actions on the minor’s part. If it is a parent who signs the application, then the parent is the one who will be held responsible.
When You Let an Unfit or Incompetent Motorist Use Your Vehicle
If you lend your automobile to an unfit, reckless, or incompetent motorist, and that motorist, through their negligent actions, causes an automobile accident, then you will be held legally responsible for any property damage or injuries that result from the accident. This is also called negligent entrustment.
In a scenario involving negligent entrustment, the injured party who files the complaint must prove that the owner of the automobile knew, or should have had reasonable knowledge, that the motorist was incompetent at the time permission was granted.
When Is a Motorist Considered Unfit, Reckless, or Incompetent?
Lending your automobile to the following types of individuals can translate to the act of committing negligent entrustment, and you could be held legally liable for any damages they cause.
§ Intoxicated Motorist. Lending your vehicle to someone who is intoxicated, or likely to become so, is classified as negligent entrustment.
§ Underage and Unlicensed Motorist. Lending your vehicle to a motorist who is not legally old enough to drive is likely to be considered negligent entrustment.
§ Inexperienced Motorist. Letting an inexperienced motorist, like a minor who only has their learner’s permit, drive your automobile unsupervised is another prime example of negligent entrustment.
§ Elderly Motorist. Just like how a person can be held responsible for lending their vehicle to an inexperienced minor, lending a car to a motorist whose advanced age causes them to become unfit to drive can be classified as negligent entrustment. An example of this would be lending your car to an elderly motorist who has rather slow reaction times.
§ Sick Driver. Offering up your vehicle to a motorist who has an illness that affects their driving abilities (like a person who has narcolepsy or is prone to seizures) constitutes negligent entrustment.
§ Prior Reckless Motorist. Negligent entrustment may occur if you lend your automobile to a friend or person who has a prior history of reckless driving.
Seeking Help From a New Hampshire Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been involved in an automobile accident and are considering filing a personal injury claim against the other party (or parties) involved in the accident or the motorist who was driving the vehicle you were in, then it is imperative for you to retain the services of an experienced New Hampshire personal injury lawyer. This is where our personal injury attorneys can step in to offer their assistance.
The initial consultation of your case is free, and your NH personal injury lawyer will take the time to answer your questions, provide an honest assessment of your case, and recommend an appropriate course of action.
Serving all of New Hampshire. Offices in Nashua, Manchester, Concord, and Portsmouth.
This site does not constitute legal advice. An attorney client relationship is formed only after an agreement is entered into between an Attorney of Liberty Legal and a client is reached. Past results do not guarantee future results.
Disclaimer: Some cases are referred to other law firms with consent of client.
Liberty Legal Services PLLC. Main office: 250 Commercial St #3020 Manchester NH 03101. (603) 262-3196