Liability in auto accident claims is often more complicated than you expect. In some cases, you get hit by a driver who is alone, driving a vehicle that they own. In this straightforward situation, you pursue compensation from the driver. But what about when there are other people in the car? What about when someone else owns the car, or the driver is a renter or borrower? There are numerous scenarios you need to consider, some of which cause someone else to be liable for the crash and some that don’t. An experienced Chicago car accident lawyer can walk you through investigating liability for a crash.
Call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900, or send us your information through our online form. We offer free initial consultations and accept cases on a contingency fee basis. You don’t owe us a fee unless we win compensation in your case.
A joint enterprise means two or more parties enter into an arrangement where they have a common interest and common levels of control. This can be a business arrangement. It could be a group of people who were involved together in some type of negligent or criminal conduct. It also applies to marriage.
Under the law, joint enterprise was used as a way to hold two or more people responsible for the same misconduct. This was known as imputed negligence. One party could be liable for another party’s negligence, no matter their conduct, if they were part of a joint enterprise or master-servant relationship.
For example, two spouses and co-owners of a vehicle were in a crash caused by the husband-driver. Under imputed negligence, the wife could be liable for her husband’s carelessness. The law also could make other individuals, not just spouses, negligent if there was a joint enterprise or master-servant relationship between a passenger and vehicle driver.
Illinois doesn’t follow the rule of imputed negligence anymore. If you were a passenger in a vehicle, you can’t be held liable for the driver’s negligence. If you were injured in a crash, you can’t hold the at-fault motorist’s passenger responsible either.
To hold someone responsible for your injuries in Illinois, you have to prove who was really negligent. If a driver was negligent and caused a crash, you can’t automatically hold their passenger liable too.
It took several court cases over the decades, but Illinois finally came to recognize that vehicle guests aren’t responsible for the driver’s behavior.
A passenger is only responsible for their carelessness. But a passenger has no duty to control the driver unless they know or should’ve known that trying to control the driver was essential to their own safety.
This is passengers’ extremely limited responsibility to other motorists and pedestrians. For example, if the driver was speeding in bad weather, the passenger should warn the driver to slow down. Another example is if a passenger gets into the car with a driver they know is intoxicated and does nothing to stop them.
If you want to sue a passenger, you can’t use the theory of imputed negligence. You can’t say the passenger is liable because the driver was negligent. Instead, you have to show the passenger was also negligent in some way. This is based on Illinois’s contributory fault law. The jury will then decide whether the passenger was negligent based on their limited responsibilities. If the jury thinks the passenger was careless, it’ll assign each defendant a percentage of fault.
Learning that Illinois doesn’t impute liability onto a party that wasn’t also negligent might be confusing.
What about vicarious liability? There are instances when another party might be liable for another’s actions like between employers and employees. But the legal doctrine of respondeat superior differs from imputing negligence onto a passenger in a car.
There’s an agency relationship between a worker and employer that doesn’t exist between a vehicle driver and a passenger, even if they’re married or work together. An employer is responsible for making sure their employees do their job safely and carefully. The same can’t be said for a passenger in someone’s car.
Under Illinois law, if you were a passenger in someone’s vehicle and got hurt in a crash, you can’t automatically sue your driver. You have to pursue a claim from whoever was really at fault. If the driver of the car you were in was to blame, then you can file an insurance claim or lawsuit against them. But if a motorist in another vehicle were at fault, then you’d pursue compensation from them.
Your claim is different if you were a hitchhiker or in a passenger in a rideshare vehicle. You are considered a hitchhiker if you solicit the ride by standing in the roadway and take a ride from any vehicle, which you don’t have to pay for.
If you were a hitchhiker, and your driver was at fault, then you have to prove their willful and wanton misconduct caused your injuries. You can’t hold the driver responsible for ordinary negligence.
If you were hurt in an Uber, Lyft, or another rideshare vehicle, you’d still go after whoever was responsible for the collision. That might be the rideshare driver or another motorist. You can’t sue Uber or Lyft usually, though you might be able to get compensation from the company’s insurance policy.
If you were in an auto accident, you want to hold the at-fault party responsible. You want justice. But who really was responsible for the crash? And who does the law hold liable, even if they weren’t the careless driver?
Our experienced Illinois personal injury attorneys can answer these questions and more when we handle your personal injury case. Use our online form or call (312) 236-2900 to talk with one of our attorneys at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C.
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