In some situations, auto accident litigation may be a relatively simple type of case. But it can become much more complicated in cases involving substantial injuries with questionable insurance coverage limits on the other vehicle. The following article will discuss 4 main extraordinary circumstances that can often add complex issues to an already emotional and physically painful time following an accident. However, understanding these 4 situations can help make the aftermath of an auto accident and its subsequent injuries a much smoother experience.
Not only is the operator of the at-fault vehicle responsible to anyone injured in an auto accident, but the owner of the vehicle is also responsible. The owner is responsible for the negligence of the operator, when that operation occurs with the permission of the owner. This is extremely important when the vehicle at fault is leased.
These days, there are a great number of cars and trucks on the road being driven on a lease basis. Because of this, it may be critical to go beyond the name on the registration to find out the exact owner of the vehicle. It is a fact that when a vehicle is leased from a big car company, the registration will simply bear the name of the user of the vehicle, the lessee. However, the actual owner of the vehicle, the lessor, is usually a major corporation with unlimited insurance coverage.
It is unfortunate for the severely injured victim when, as happens many times, the at-fault vehicle’s actual ownership is never discovered and the additional insurance is never disclosed.
Though it is common for companies to put their names in bold letters on their business vehicles, it is not always the case. When accidents occur, many times there is no indication that the vehicle was being used for business purposes. In fact, it may appear to the casual observer that the vehicle was not being used for business at the time. The only way to find out if the vehicle was being used for business is doing an in-depth investigation.
If a vehicle is being operated by an employee during the course of his or her employment, then the employer may be “vicariously responsible” for the negligence of their employee in operating that vehicle. It is very possible that the employer has additional liability coverage far exceeding that of the driver. An “excess” insurance policy may also exist.
One of the causes of an auto accident may be a highway defect, such as improper design, maintenance, construction, signage, or lighting. Liability may also be based on improper striping on the road’s passing lanes, a hill that impairs driver visibility, a sharp obstruction or problem with the roadway that obstructs drivers’ vision. Trees and utility poles can also cause problems when planted or erected too close to the roadway.
The Seatbelt Defense
While seatbelts and airbags provide an important function and do prevent serious injuries or death to people involved in accidents, they are not guarantees that you will not be killed or injured in a serious accident.
Seatbelts and airbags can fail or cause injury in and of themselves. But yet, the seatbelt defense, often used by attorneys defending at-fault drivers, seeks to establish that some, or all, of the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the failure to wear a seatbelt.
All in all, it is essential that a routine investigation be done, in any case involving a vehicular accident. Police records must be obtained, witnesses interviewed and photographs taken immediately of the accident scene and damage to the vehicles. Prompt contact must be made with the insurance company of the negligent driver to learn of the available coverage limits and attempt to find out additional information from the adjuster regarding possible other areas for coverage. Many times, the at-fault driver’s insurance company adjuster will attempt to record a statement from the victim, without advice of counsel. This should never be permitted.