An auto accident can leave you with lifelong injuries that will require permanent medical care. If your accident was the result of another driver’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation for your medical care and other losses, including your physical pain and mental anguish. Make sure to consult with an Austin personal injury attorney if you have received injuries in an accident.
Negligent Entrustment vs. Vicarious Liability in Texas
In many accident cases, there is more than one responsible party. For instance, if you are hit by an 18-wheeler or similar commercial truck, the company that owns the vehicle may be liable for the driver’s negligence. Even in a scenario where someone simply lends their car to a friend, the vehicle’s owner may still be responsible depending on the circumstances leading up to the accident.
There are two separate but related legal principles at work here: negligent entrustment and vicarious liability. Here is a recent Texas case that helps illustrate the difference: A couple–the plaintiffs in this case–was traveling in their car when they were struck by a commercial truck. Both the plaintiffs and the truck were forced to suddenly brake to avoid hitting a third vehicle in front of them that was stuck in a ditch.
The plaintiffs sued the driver and owner of the truck. At trial, a Texas state trooper testified that the collision was a result of the truck driver’s “failure to control his speed.” Had he been driving slower and at a safer distance from the plaintiffs’ vehicle, there would not have been a collision, regardless of what happened with the third vehicle.
The jury returned a significant personal injury award in favor of the plaintiffs. Among other things, the jury determined the owner of the truck was both vicariously liable and liable under negligent entrustment. On appeal, a Texas appeals court reversed the latter finding but upheld the former.
This case demonstrates an important part of Texas law. Negligent entrustment means the owner of a vehicle knowingly allows an “unlicensed, incompetent, or reckless driver” to operate their vehicle–and that driver’s negligence subsequently causes an accident. A typical example of negligent entrustment is loaning your car to someone you know is intoxicated. If they get into an accident, you can be held liable for negligent entrustment, even if you were not in the car at the time of the accident.
In this case, however, the appeals court said there was no evidence that the truck driver was “incompetent or reckless.” The driver had a commercial license and a clean driving record. The mere fact he got into an accident does not mean his employer was negligent in entrusting him with its truck.
That said, the employer was still vicariously liable for the plaintiffs’ injuries. Vicarious liability basically means a principal is responsible for the negligent acts its agent. In other words, an employer is legally responsible for an accident caused by an employee in the course of his or her employment. And in a case like this, vicarious liability is “joint and several,” which means the employer can be held responsible for the entire amount of the judgment.
Contact an Austin Auto Accident Lawyer Today
Establishing liability following an auto accident can be a complicated process, especially if multiple drivers and vehicle owners are involved. A qualified Austin personal injury lawyer can help investigate your accident and make sure all of the responsible parties are held accountable. Contact the office of Robert Littlefield Buford III, Attorney at Law, if you have been in an accident to speak with someone right away.