Who’s at fault? Agency and Ownership issues

Who’s at fault? Agency and Ownership issues

In the moments following a car accident it is often difficult to think clearly.  Accident victims are immediately concerned with whether they or their loved ones are injured.  Determinations of who was at fault for the accident are not often made until hours or even days after an accident has occurred.  In some situations the first police officer on the scene may make a determination as to fault by issuing a citation.  However, in more complicated situations, even if an officer issues a citation it does not encompass the full picture of who is at fault.  Situations such as this often involve someone who was driving a car that did not belong to them, such as a work vehicle.  What happens if the driver who caused the accident was a professional driver in a company vehicle, or if the at fault driver was negligently allowed to drive someone else’s vehicle?

What is Agency?

These questions involve the legal idea of agency, which is defined by Illinois law as when one person is performing an act on behalf of another.  In a car accident scenario, it is possible that the at fault driver was running an errand for a friend or family member, or performing a task for his or her employer at the time of the accident.


Recovering damages from the driver of the vehicle may not be possible for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes, an individual does not have the proper insurance to cover the accident.  This leaves the victim, and the victim’s insurance carrier, on the hook to pay for medical expenses, property damage and any other costs stemming from the accident.  Many people may not realize that when a driver is in an agency relationship with another person at the time of an accident, the other party (also called the ‘principal’) may be liable for some or all of the damages from the accident.

In order for an employer to be liable for its employee driver, it must be shown that an employee-employer relationship existed at the time of the accident and that the employee was acting in furtherance of employment.  The first part of the inquiry is fairly simple, but the latter part is often where parties turn to the court system for liability decisions.  What “in furtherance of” typically means is that the at fault driver was actually performing some duties of his or her employment at the time of the accident.  If it is found that the driver was running a personal errand, but happened to use the company’s truck, the company may not be liable.

Family and friends negligently allowing someone use of their personal car is a bit different.  In this scenario, a common case involves a parent negligently allowing an uninsured child to drive their car to run an errand on their behalf.  If the child is involved in an accident, the injured person may seek to recover damages from the parents’ insurance company.

The Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, Injury Law Firm

Agency determinations are not always the most natural considerations by someone who has been injured in a car accident.  They are, however, very important to consider in order to avoid being the one left holding the bill for an accident you had no fault in causing.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Waukegan, contact the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. today.  Our skilled attorneys can speak to you about your case and help you determine who may be liable to pay for your injuries.


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