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Can There Be Third-Party Liability in Single Car Accidents?

Written by Jared Staver

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Jared Staver is a Personal Injury Lawyer based in Chicago, Illinois and has been practicing law for over 20 years.

Jared Staver

CATEGORY: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury


When we get into a single-car accident, usually we are held responsible. The most common causes for single-car accidents include slick road conditions, sun glare, potholes, and distracted or drowsy driving, all of which are factors with no third-party liability. However, there are certain cases where you cannot be held responsible for an accident, as well as cases where a third party can be held at least partially liable.

Contributory Negligence

In certain cases, third parties may be partially responsible for a single-car accident, even if you are partially at fault. A common case is when a minor borrows a car. In the event that that minor causes damage to another person’s property, the adult who owns the car can be held responsible. Strictly speaking, any time you lend a car to an incompetent, reckless, or unfit driver, you can be held responsible for any accidents they cause. A person would be considered an incompetent, reckless, or unfit driver if they are:

  • Intoxicated or likely to get intoxicated and drive based on past behavior
  • Unlicensed or underage
  • Inexperienced and unsupervised by an adult
  • Elderly and no longer fit to drive
  • Ill with a disease or condition that can affect their driving
  • Historically reckless as a driver based on past tickets, arrests or accidents

In other rare cases, drunk drivers can hold the establishment that sold them the alcohol responsible for their single-car accident. While adults are not always successful in such cases, dram shops that serve minors often face liability for accidents that occur afterward.

Elements Outside the Driver’s Control

In some single-car accidents, no one is at fault. If a branch falls out of the sky and hits your windshield causing an accident, a deer darts in your path, or if the car unexpectedly malfunctions, no one can be held responsible. Usually, you can file an insurance claim under comprehensive insurance. These circumstances, however, happen rarely. Often some circumstance predicates an accident, and some of these would be the fault of a third party.

For example, if another driver runs a red light and you swerve to avoid an accident, but end up hitting a stationary object in the process, the other driver who broke the law would be liable. Unfortunately, in these cases, you often need a witness or traffic video to prove the event occurred. If you end up in a single-car accident due to another driver’s recklessness, you need to report as much information as you have about the other driver to the police, and get witnesses to corroborate your story when possible.

Other times, a completely separate third party may have contributed to the single-car accidents by contributing to the outside cause. For example, if you recently had a tire changed and poor workmanship caused it to blow out, contributing to the third party accident, the mechanic who was negligent in doing the work on the car, which ultimately caused your injury, could be held responsible.

Single vehicle accidents pose a challenge to the driver in the crashed car, because the assumption tends to be that they are at fault. However, this is not always the case. An experienced attorney often will be able to evaluate the circumstances of a case to determine if a third party can be held responsible for your accident. If you or a family member has been in a single-car accident where a third party may be liable, you may deserve compensation. Call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today at (312) 236-2900 for a free consultation with one of our accident attorneys on your particular case to find out how we can help.

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(312) 236-2900
(312) 236-2900
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