What Are My Options if the Other Driver was Underinsured?

David Monteleone
Illinois Accident and Wrongful Death Lawyer

  Posted  |  Category : Personal Injury Attorney

Personal Injury AttorneyIn most car crash claims, most attorneys focus on collecting evidence and building a case for damages. But in some situations, these things are not enough. If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) did not have sufficient insurance, it does not matter how strong the victim/plaintiff’s case is.

This issue comes up a lot, because Illinois has one of the highest percentages of uninsured motorists in the country. Also, the Prairie State has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, many divers are dangerously underinsured.

Many car crash victims believe they have no options in these situations. But that’s not true, because Illinois also has some of the broadest vicarious liability rules in the country. Frequently, if the tortfeasor is unable to pay fair compensation, there are other legally responsible parties.

Only the best Rockford personal injury attorneys should deal with vicarious liability claims. These matters are quite complex, usually because they typically involve out-of-state defendants.

Employer Liability

Large truck crashes usually cause some of the most catastrophic car crash injuries. When fully loaded, these large vehicles weigh more than 80,000 pounds and carry hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel. Frequently, individual owner-operators do not have enough insurance coverage to make good on all economic and non-economic losses.

The respondeat superior rule is often a lifesaver for victims in these situations. These individuals do not need to pay for medical bills and other accident-related costs out of their own pocket. Instead, the transportation company which owned the rig is usually responsible for damages if:

  • The driver is classified as an employee. For tax purposes, most truck drivers are independent contractors or owner-operators. But these individuals are usually employees for negligence purposes. If the employer controls anything like cargo hauled or hours worked, the driver is an employee in this context.
  • Scope of Employment applies. Once upon a time, drivers only acted within the scope of employment if they were regular drivers on their regular routes. Today, the definition is much broader. Any act which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment.
  • The wreck was a foreseeable result of the employer/employee relationship. If a worker breaks into a garage and steals a company car, a wreck was probably not foreseeable. If the circumstances were any less extreme, this element is usually not a problem.

The respondeat superior doctrine applies in other instances as well, such as Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and bus drivers.

Owner Liability

Drivers often borrow other peoples’ vehicles for various reasons. If owners knowingly allow incompetent driver to use their vehicles, the owners are responsible if the incompetent drivers cause auto accidents. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
  • Driving in violation of license restrictions (e.g. no nighttime driving), and
  • A poor driving record.

The negligent entrustment rule frequently comes up when teen drivers use the family car. Illinois recognizes the family purpose doctrine, so these cases are a bit easier to win.

Commercial negligent entrustment claims, such as U-Haul truck crashes, work a bit differently because of the Graves Amendment.

Alcohol Provider Liability

Law enforcement began cracking down on “drunk drivers” in the 1990s. However, despite all efforts, alcohol still causes about a third of the fatal vehicle collisions in Illinois. To further stem this tide, Illinois lawmakers recently approved a dram shop law. Bars, restaurants, and other commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for car crash damages if the commercial establishment provided alcohol to a driver, the alcohol caused or contributed to the person’s impairment, and the person caused a car crash.

There is a difference between intoxication and impairment. Most people are legally intoxicated after they have consumed at least three (3) drinks. However, impairment begins with the first sip of alcohol.

Social hosts might be vicariously liable for car crash damages as well, under a theory like negligent undertaking.

Contact a Tenacious Attorney

Frequently, the tortfeasor is not the only party who is legally responsible for car crash damages. For a free consultation with an experienced Rockford personal injury lawyer, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.