Vicarious Liability in Car Wreck Claims: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

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Aaron House

Vicarious Liability in Car Wreck Claims: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

Missouri has one of the highest percentages of uninsured motorists in the country. Additionally, the Show-Me State has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. Therefore, a number of tortfeasors (negligent drivers) may not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation, especially in catastrophic injury cases. That is one reason vicarious liability is so important. 

Additionally, third party liability theories help Kansas City personal injury attorneys obtain justice for victims. Frequently, an employer or other third party triggered a chain of events that lead to a car crash. The hope is that judgments against these companies will force these companies to adopt safer policies and procedures to keep potential victims from being hurt.

Alcohol Provider Liability (Dram Shop Liability)

Drunk drivers cause about a third of the fatal car crashes in Missouri. Alcohol impairs judgment and affects motor skills. Impediments in either one of these areas cause dangerous impairment. The combination is often deadly.

Some states have scaled back or eliminated their dram shop laws in recent years. But Missouri’s alcohol provider vicarious liability law remains on the book. It usually applies if a provider serves a patron who was visibly intoxicated, and that patron later causes a car crash. The law defines visible intoxication as “significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction.” Evidence on this point can include things like:

  • A strong odor of alcohol,
  • Unsteady balance, and
  • Bloodshot eyes.

Missouri’s dram shop law only applies to bars, restaurants, and other vendors who sell alcohol by the drink. It does not apply to social hosts or grocery stores, convenience stores, and other packaged alcohol providers.

Employer Liability

Truck drivers, Uber drivers, and other commercial operators cause a significant number of crashes in Missouri. In these situations, the respondeat superior vicarious liability theory usually applies. This legal doctrine has two basic prongs:

Employee: For income tax purposes, employees are usually people who work regular hours and receive regular paychecks. But in this context, employees are individuals whom the employer controls. That category includes not only regular employees but also independent contractors and owner-operators.

Scope of Employment: Likewise, the scope of employment is not limited to regular job duties. This category includes any act which benefits the employer in any way. For example, in workers’ compensation cases, employee softball games are within the scope of employment.

Commercial operators generally have a higher duty of care than noncommercial drivers, which helps to hold commercial drivers and their employers responsible for the injuries they cause other people.

Owner Liability

Teen drivers cause a number of crashes in Missouri. In these and other claims, vehicle owners might be vicariously liable for car wreck damages, because of the negligent entrustment theory. Owners are liable if they allow incompetent operators to drive their cars. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • Providing an intoxicated person the keys to their car;
  • Driving in violation of license restrictions (e.g. no licensed operator in the front seat); and
  • A poor driving record.

Contact an Assertive Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury because of another person’s negligence, call Aaron M. House at 816-875-4260 today for a free consultation. There is no fee until we obtain a settlement or judgment on your behalf.

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