An essential part of life for most people is trying to help out family and friends, whenever possible. For example, we help each other find jobs, introduce our friends and family to those we think may be potential romantic partners, and share our professional knowledge and trade skills when they are helpful. That can include anything from fixing a plumbing issue to understanding a smartphone or computer application.
We also share the things that we own. A friend or family member may seek a loan. Neighbors borrow tools and equipment. In fact, the list of borrowed items can be almost endless, from clothes to casserole dishes.
It’s common for someone to borrow another person’s car or pickup truck. While everything usually works out fine, it is inevitable that, on occasion, the borrowed vehicle will be involved in an auto accident in Oregon. Unfortunately, some of those accidents result in death or severe injury to the drivers or passengers in the cars involved. While you may never have thought about the consequences, if you become involved in such a scenario, you will undoubtedly want to know who is legally responsible. That is the topic of this blog post.
We have often explained the importance of holding negligent actors responsible for the damages they cause to help keep society safe. That includes exercising reasonable care while driving an automobile. If a person acts negligently, and that negligence causes injury, the negligent party can be held liable for the damages resulting from the accident.
Thus, as a general rule, the negligent person is the driver who failed to exercise reasonable care and caused the accident, and the negligent driver can be held personally liable. However, that is not the end of the inquiry. As we know, insurance is usually involved, and makes the analysis of liability and compensation much more complicated.
Most Oregon Cars Are Insured
Oregon has a mandatory insurance law. While undoubtedly uninsured drivers are on the road, we will first address the typical scenario in which the drivers are insured in the state of Oregon. Let’s assume that Ashley lends her car to her friend David for the afternoon while David’s car is in the shop. Both Ashley and David have full coverage on their respective vehicles. David is driving to the grocery store. While he is distracted by reading a text, he runs a stop sign and crashes into Victor. Victor is injured and taken to the hospital.
David is clearly the negligent driver. Just because the car is borrowed from Ashley would not generally make her vicariously liable. However, Ashley’s insurance will likely have to pay first because insurance generally follows the car under Oregon law, not the driver. Not only does she now have a wrecked car, but she may be getting an insurance premium increase because her insurance has to pay for the accident.
There can be some exceptions to this general rule. For example, unlike liability insurance, personal injury protection (PIP) follows the person. Therefore, each person’s PIP will cover their own claims. Additionally, the various drivers’ uninsured motorist coverages can come into play. Ultimately, sorting out insurance coverages and working with lawyers can often be more complicated than determining whose negligence caused the accident.
Finally, there are circumstances when the owner of a car can actually be found vicariously liable. The most common example is when an employee is driving the employer’s car in the course of the driver’s employment. Similarly, the owner of a vehicle can be held liable under the family purpose doctrine, which we discussed in a previous post. Investigating all the surrounding circumstances is crucial when determining negligence, liability, and insurance coverage.
Call with Questions
You have important rights if you have been injured in an automobile accident due to another’s negligence. However, investigating accidents, and whose insurance coverage applies, can be complicated. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield handle automobile accident cases all across Oregon and would happily answer your questions in a free consultation. Please call us.