third party cause to car accident

Determining Liability when a Third Party Causes a Car Accident

Each year, there are millions of vehicle crashes in the United States. These crashes result in tens of thousands of fatalities, and hundreds of thousands more become seriously injured. Sadly, most of these accidents are preventable and caused by some type of human error, such as distracted driving, drunk driving, driving recklessly, or some other type of driver negligence.

While driver negligence is very often the cause of a car accident, there are some cases in which a party that was not operating any of the vehicles involved was to blame. This is commonly referred to as third-party liability.

When another party (other than the drivers) is at fault for an accident, the case will almost certainly become more complicated than a standard car accident. In such cases, injured individuals are best off working with an attorney who is focused mostly or exclusively on personal injury law. A seasoned accident injury attorney will have dealt with a lot of cases like these before, and this gives them unique insights that only come through dealing directly with the complexities that you are likely to encounter.

Third Parties that May be Liable for a Car Accident

There are several parties other than the drivers who could share fault for an auto accident:

Vehicle Owners

If a person loans a vehicle to someone that they know, or should have known was unfit to drive it, it may be possible to hold the vehicle owner liable under the legal theory known as negligent entrustment. Examples of unfit drivers may include individuals who are intoxicated, underage and/or unlicensed, suffering from an illness (such as epilepsy) that makes them susceptible to seizures, or has a history of driving recklessly. Negligent entrustment could also extend to parents or grandparents that allow a child to drive even though they know the child is inexperienced, reckless, or incompetent.


A passenger could be held liable for an auto accident in some cases. For example, it is common among teens to give in to peer pressure, such as a passenger who encourages a teen driver to blow through a stop sign or otherwise drive recklessly. Sometimes a passenger’s role is even more direct, like when they physically interfere with driving by grabbing the steering wheel.

Alcohol Providers

In some drunk driving accident cases, a bar or other type of liquor establishment could be held responsible for providing alcohol to the intoxicated driver who caused the crash. This is commonly referred to as a “dram shop” claim. Claims like these require a high burden of proof, however, and you would need to show clear and convincing evidence that the person who received the alcohol was “visibly intoxicated”.

Product Manufacturers

Some car accidents are caused by a defective vehicle or vehicle part that fails to perform. For example, a newly installed brake line that does not bring the vehicle to a stop to avoid a crash, or a brand-new tire that blows out while traveling 55 mph down the highway. When a vehicle defect contributes to an auto crash, it may be possible to bring a product liability claim against the product manufacturer, supplier, or distributor.


An employer that allows an employee to drive a company vehicle or to drive a personal vehicle during working hours while performing occupational duties can be held responsible if the employee causes an accident. And even if a company claims that the driver is an independent contractor, it might turn out that they actually meet the definition of an employee. This happens frequently in the trucking industry, and in recent years, there has also been a question over the employment relationship with regards to ridesharing companies and their drivers like those who drive for Uber and Lyft.

There are numerous other third parties that could be responsible or at least share some of the fault for an auto accident. For example, with truck accidents, there are several parties that could be on the hook; which may include the driver’s employer, the owner/lessor of the truck, the cargo/shipping company that may have overloaded or unevenly loaded the truck, the party responsible for maintaining the truck, or a faulty vehicle or vehicle part provider.

As we talked about earlier, it is very important to work with an attorney who has in-depth experience with these types of cases and the proven ability to hold all responsible parties fully accountable.

Injured in a Car Accident in South Carolina? Contact Peake and Fowler for Legal Help

If you or someone close to you got hurt in an auto accident, there may be more potential avenues to recovering compensation than you realize. For a free consultation and full case assessment, get in touch with the skilled and knowledgeable attorneys at Peake and Fowler. Call our office today at 803-788-4370 or message us online to speak with a member of our legal team. We look forward to serving you!