Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer and I am a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Seattle. I handle personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death claims throughout the greater Seattle area, including Issaquah, Mercer Island and Kirkland.

I am here to help you.

Call for a free consultation (206) 340-2008

Third-Party Liability in Renton Car Crash Claims

Posted Friday, February 17, 2023 by Chris Thayer

The average economic cost of a catastrophic (life-threatening) vehicle collision injury is over $100,000. Most tortfeasors (negligent drivers) do not have enough insurance coverage to make good on these economic losses. Washington has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country.

Additionally, most tortfeasors certainly do not have enough insurance coverage to make good on emotional distress and other noneconomic losses.

It is possible to sue these tortfeasors individually, but most people are judgment-proof. Therefore, a Renton personal injury attorney typically uses third-party liability theories, like one of the theories discussed below, to obtain maximum compensation in catastrophic and fatal injury cases.

*Owner Liability*This third-party liability theory is available in both commercial and noncommercial negligent entrustment matters. Basically, negligent entrustment is an owner allowing an incompetent driver to use their motor vehicle.

Evidence of incompetence includes a safety-suspended driver’s license, a poor driving record with prior safety suspensions, and a poor driving record with recent at-fault collisions. Drivers could also be incompetent as a matter of law if they violate a license restriction, like no nighttime driving.

Commercial owners, like Enterprise and U-Haul, could be liable for car crash damages if they negligently entrust a vehicle to a renter and there is a contractual relationship between the owner and renter. The federal Graves Amendment, which limits owner liability in these situations, could affect a Renton personal injury attorney’s legal claim in this area.

Noncommercial transactions usually include parents letting children borrow cars or roommates letting other roommates borrow cars. Washington courts broadly interpret the family purpose doctrine. There is basically a presumption that a noncommercial borrower used the vehicle for a family purpose. That is another element of many noncommercial negligent entrustment claims.

*Employer Liability*The respondeat superior rule typically applies if the tortfeasor was a truck driver, bus driver, Uber driver, or another commercial operator. This legal doctrine has two basic prongs:

Employee: Most of the aforementioned operators are independent contractors or other non-employees for most purposes. However, these individuals are usually employees for negligence purposes. Uber and other companies control their drivers in areas like passengers or cargo carried.Scope of Employment: We will stay with Uber drivers as an example. Any act that benefits the employer is within the scope of employment. That category includes deadheading drivers who are driving aimlessly, waiting for fares.

Most personal insurance policies do not cover commercial losses. So, unless they have special insurance policies or riders, Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing operators are basically uninsured.

Other employer liability theories, which usually apply in assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent entrustment.

Incidentally, most commercial operators have a higher duty of care in Washington. So, it is easier for a Renton personal injury attorney to prove negligence, or a lack of care, in these situations.

*Dram Shop Liability*Restaurants, bars, and other commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they illegally sell alcohol to a tortfeasor who later causes a car wreck.

Serving an intoxicated patron is the most common illegal sale. Evidence of intoxication at the time of sale includes physical symptoms, like slurred speech, and the customer’s recent purchases at that establishment.

Other illegal sales include underage sales, unlicensed sales, and before or after-hour alcohol sales.

*Reach Out to a Hard-Working King County Attorney*Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Kent, contact Pivotal Law Group, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.