Car Accident Liability: Who’s Responsible?

Car accidents commonly result in property damage, but many also cause painful, life-changing injuries or, tragically, death. If you’re hurt in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be entitled to recover compensation from the person or party responsible. But is the driver always at fault?

Determining liability isn’t always straightforward and multiple parties can be involved, but it’s one of the most critical parts of a claim.

We look at the individuals and entities that may be at fault for a car accident.

The Driver Who Caused the Accident

If a driver causes an accident because they run a red light, are texting on their phone, or fail to check their blind spot, you can typically sue them for damages. These damages include the cost of treating your injuries and lost wages if you cannot work after the accident. Various evidence can establish the driver’s negligence, including traffic camera footage, eyewitness testimony, and physical evidence such as skid marks. The driver may even admit guilt by apologizing or acknowledging they were distracted, which can support your claim.

A Driver Who Did Not Hit You

Sometimes, a driver may not directly collide with you but still be responsible for your injuries. If a driver suddenly changes lanes without signaling, which causes the driver behind them to swerve into another lane and, in turn, hit another vehicle, the driver who made the initial lane change could be liable for the damage to all cars involved — even if they didn’t directly hit anyone — as they are ultimately responsible for the accident.

A Vehicle Manufacturer

A car manufacturer may be responsible for a car accident caused by a defective part, such as if a driver’s brakes malfunction or the airbags fail to deploy. Evidence such as repair records, product recalls, expert analysis, and accident reports can help build a product liability claim and demonstrate the faulty car part is the cause.

An Employer

When an employee causes a car accident while on the job, their employer may be responsible for any damages or injuries under “respondeat superior.” This doctrine can apply if a construction worker hits a pedestrian while driving a company vehicle, an Uber or Lyft driver crashes into a car with a passenger in the backseat, or a courier causes a crash while making a delivery.

An employer can also be liable if they knowingly hire a banned driver or fail to check if an individual has a history of citations or dangerous behavior.

A Mechanic or Repair Shop

A manufacturer isn’t the only party that can be liable when a broken or defective car part contributes to an accident. A repair shop or mechanic may be responsible if they fail to spot a fault or introduce a new issue when repairing a vehicle and it causes an accident. Evidence like repair records, bills, and expert testimony can help you prove liability in a claim.

A Government Contractor

Government contractors or road authorities responsible for maintenance may be liable for car accidents caused by poorly maintained roads or other hazards. Evidence such as maintenance records, inspection reports, and accident scene photographs can help establish contractor responsibility.

Pursuing a claim against a government contractor or authority can be complex. Specific legal procedures and deadlines may apply, so it’s crucial to work with an attorney experienced in handling cases involving government entities.


Multiple factors typically contribute to a car accident, so one party is rarely solely at fault. You may even be partially liable for causing your accident. Whether you can claim compensation depends on the negligence law in your state. Most states have comparative negligence laws, which allow you to secure a reduced amount if you contributed to your accident.

For example, you may have suffered a whiplash injury in Greenville, South Carolina, because a driver rear-ended your vehicle. However, you were checking your phone at a stop light and did not see the lights turn green. The other party may argue you could have avoided the accident if you had paid attention. Ultimately, you are 20% responsible for the crash. South Carolina has modified comparative negligence laws, which allow you to claim if you are less than 51% at fault.

Your compensation is reduced based on your fault, so if you receive $100,000 and are 20% responsible, you would receive the remaining 80% — or $80,000.

A personal injury lawyer in Greenville, SC, can help you prove the driver who rear-ended you is significantly liable for the accident and caused your injuries.

The Role of a Car Accident Lawyer

You don’t need to hire a car accident lawyer to claim compensation after an accident, but it has many benefits. You may not realize you can claim from multiple parties or that pursuing another party could result in a much higher settlement. A skilled attorney will explore all avenues for compensation, gather evidence to prove liability and build a strong case to secure maximum compensation for your injuries.

A car accident lawyer will also negotiate with stubborn insurance companies, advise on whether a settlement offer is fair and will cover your long-term expenses, and advocate for you at trial if negotiations fail.

Determining who’s liable for a car accident can be complicated. The driver is often not the only person at fault, and when multiple parties are responsible, holding the right party accountable can be challenging. Working with an experienced car accident lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of car accident liability.

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