Who is liable in a single car crash?
If you are driving down the road and another car runs a red light before hitting you, the driver who ran the red light is most likely responsible for the accident. You get an attorney, you file a claim against their insurance, you make a demand for payment, and you file a lawsuit if they don’t pay.
But what if there is no other car? Who is liable if you run off the road and hit a tree or a lamppost?
What if you are the passenger involved in a single car crash? Who pays?
Who is Liable in a Single Car Crash?
Who pays after a single car crash depends on the circumstances of the case. Let’s look at some examples of single car crashes to see the different scenarios that are possible.
In some cases, there is a single car crash with a single person in the car and no other victims. For example, last week a man drove his van off the road and overturned – he died in the crash, there were no other passengers in the van, and, based on the media report, it doesn’t appear that anyone else was responsible for the crash.
Barring additional information about the crash, it appears that the driver of the van was responsible for the accident, whether he fell asleep, was intoxicated, or lost control of his vehicle.
Unless there is additional information that points to another responsible party or another insurance policy that would cover the crash, his insurance policy may pay damages to his family to the extent that the terms of his policy cover the accident.
One Car in a Pond and Five Victims
In another example from last month, five people were killed in a single car crash when a car somehow ended up in a pond in Myrtle Beach. Who is liable?
As with the example of the van driver above, the driver of the car (or his family) may be entitled to compensation from his insurance policy or the car owner’s policy.
Barring additional information, it appears that the driver was responsible for the crash and the deaths of his passengers. Although it was a single car crash, the passengers (or their families) can sue the driver of the car for wrongful death and, assuming that the driver was liable, they can recover damages up to the policy limits.
Auntie was Driving Drunk
What if you let your children ride into town with your sister, she stops at a bar on the way, gets drunk, and crashes her car with your children in the back seat?
It’s a single car accident, but Auntie is liable for the accident. Since she was drunk when the accident happened, she may be liable for punitive damages as well. Even if there were no other cars or drivers involved, the children can file suit against Auntie and recover damages from her insurance policy (and any other insurance policies that are available).
In many cases, there are third parties who may be liable in a single car crash. What if the accident was not the driver’s fault, but they were swerving to avoid a dog, or the crash happened after they hit a pothole?
If another party can be held liable for the accident, you are more likely to recover full and fair compensation because there may be multiple insurance policies that are on the hook. You could have a third-party claim for:
- Negligence for failing to secure a dog or other pet,
- Failure to maintain roadways if the municipality was on notice of the dangerous condition,
- Negligence against a property owner or business for leaving gravel or other hazards in the roadway, or
- Product liability if a defective auto part caused the crash.
Who Pays for the Damages in a Single Car Crash?
So, who pays?
Usually, it’s insurance companies who are on the hook. It’s just a matter of identifying who was responsible for the crash and what insurance policies are available to collect from.
If you are in a single car crash and it was your fault, you may be able to collect compensation from your insurance company, depending on the terms of your policy.
If you are in a single car crash, it was your fault, and your passengers were injured, your passengers may have a lawsuit against you that your insurance company is obligated to defend.
If it was a single car crash that was caused by someone else, the third party may be liable and their insurance policies may cover the damages, whether it is an individual, company, or municipality.
Your auto accident lawyer on the Axelrod team will help you to gather the evidence that you need to prove the at-fault driver’s liability and to identify any third parties who may be liable.