When discussing liability following an auto accident, the process of discovering who is at fault is usually straightforward. In many cases, there are two or more drivers involved, and one of the drivers was negligent in some way shape or form. Negligent simply means that the driver was not operating their vehicle with the standard level of reasonable care, and that led to an injury. An injured driver can then consult with a car accident lawyer and move forward with their lawsuit.

Things are not always this simple, however. There are circumstances that can place liability on an individual who’s not even behind the wheel. You may be asking yourself, how can this be? Two North Carolina legal theories make this form of liability possible: negligent entrustment and the family purpose doctrine.

Negligent Entrustment

One of the prevailing ways that an individual can find themselves liable for an accident without being behind the wheel can be found by looking at North Carolina’s negligent entrustment law.

Negligent entrustment is a legal theory established when the owner of a vehicle entrusts operation of the vehicle to an individual who the owner knows, or should have known, to be unfit to operate the vehicle. Unfit can mean that the driver was a negligent individual, a reckless driver, or is likely to cause injury to others if placed behind the wheel. Should the driver, after gaining consent to operate the vehicle, cause an accident or injury to anyone in the operation of the vehicle, the owner of that vehicle can be liable for any injury or damages that result. To prove negligent entrustment, two elements must be present:

  1. The owner of the vehicle has to entrust their vehicle to the driver.
  2. The owner has to have known, or should have known, that the driver was likely to operate their vehicle in a negligent manner.

Family Purpose Doctrine

The family purpose doctrine is another legal theory that can place liability on an a person other than the driver for injuries that arise as the result of an accident. This legal theory can have serious implications for parents when allowing young children to operate their vehicles.

The family purpose doctrine states that whoever maintains or provides a vehicle for the use of his or her family, and actually or implicitly authorizes members of his or her family to use the automobile, is liable for any negligent operation of that automobile by said family members. What makes this doctrine so dangerous is that the scope of liability does not stop at immediate family members, but can extend to cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident or you have allowed someone to use your automobile and they have been in an accident involving your car, you have rights and need to seek the counsel of an experienced North Carolina auto accident lawyer immediately. Contact Campbell & Associates Attorneys at Law today for a free consultation with one of our North Carolina auto accident attorneys.

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