Despite the mandatory insurance law, about one in seven Rockford drivers are completely uninsured. Many more are dangerously underinsured, because Illinois has one of the lowest insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, in catastrophic injury situations, many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) may not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation.
In cases like these, attorneys often look to vicarious liability. In many cases, the tortfeasor is not the only party responsible for damages. Third-party liability gives a victim an additional source of recovery. That’s often important in these situations, because damages can sometimes be extremely high.
“Let the master answer” is the most common employer liability theory in Rockford. It applies in cases involving truck drivers, taxi drivers, delivery drivers, and perhaps even ride-sharing drivers. The specific elements are:
- Scope of Employment: The tortfeasor must be acting within the scope of employment at the time of the car crash. “Scope of employment” is very broadly defined to include any activity that benefits the employer in any way. In Rockford workers’ compensation cases, some courts have held that participation in an employee softball game is within the scope of employment. Judges reason that happy and healthy employees benefit the employer.
- Employee: In this context, an “employee” is not just someone who receives a regular paycheck. Independent contractors, owner operators, and perhaps even unpaid volunteers are all “employees” for negligence purposes. Most courts use the Department of Labor’s definition, which is suffer or permit to work.
- Foreseeability: The victim/plaintiff’s damages must be a foreseeable consequence. It is not foreseeable that an employee will steal a car from the parking lot and get into a crash, but almost everything else is foreseeable.
Generally, if there are multiple responsible parties, a Rockford judge will apportion damages among them based on their percentage of fault.
Vehicle owner liability almost always applies if the tortfeasor was under 18, because minors cannot own property. Some states have adopted the family purpose doctrine which limits liability in these cases, but this loophole is unavailable in Illinois. So, parents or other owners are liable for damages if they allowed incompetent drivers to use their property. The victim/plaintiff must establish that the owner knew about the incompetence. Two types of evidence are available:
- Direct: Persons without valid driver’s licenses are incompetent as a matter of law, no matter how experienced they are behind the wheel. The same result applies if the person drives in violation of a driver’s license restriction, such as without eyeglasses.
- Circumstantial: Liability also attaches if the owner knew that the tortfeasor was a bad driver or had a bad driving record.
Commercial negligent entrustment cases, such as a Ryder truck accident, work differently because of the Graves Amendment.
Dram Shop Liability
Under Illinois law, bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and other commercial alcohol providers can be liable for damages that their intoxicated patrons cause.
Essentially, victim/plaintiffs must establish that the alcohol provider substantially caused the tortfeasor’s intoxication. The law is a bit uncertain, but some courts have held that as little as one or two beers was sufficient to meet this element.
Team Up with Assertive Attorneys
Vicarious liability makes it easier for victims to obtain fair compensation for their injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. Home and hospital visits are available.