Vicarious Liability for Car Accidents in Georgia

Posted by Hunter Delashmit | Jul 01, 2023 | 0 Comments

Did you know you could be liable for personal injuries caused by an accident even though you were not personally operating one of the motor vehicles involved in the accident?

Negligent Entrustment

Under Georgia law, an individual or entity is liable for negligent entrustment when that individual entrusts someone with an instrumentality, with actual knowledge that the person to whom the instrumentality is entrusted is incompetent by reason of his age or inexperience, or his physical or mental condition, or his known habit of recklessness. Gunn v. Booker, 259 Ga. 343 (1989).

It is not sufficient for the injured party to show constructive knowledge, which simply means that the entrustor, by the exercise of reasonable care and diligence, could have ascertained the fact of incompetency of the driver. Georgia law does not impose a duty upon the owner of a motor vehicle to investigate the competency or lack thereof of one who drives the owner's motor vehicle.

Family Purpose Doctrine

Under Georgia law, when an owner of a vehicle maintains the vehicle for the use and convenience of his family, the owner may be held liable for the negligence of a family member who was using the vehicle for a family purpose.

There are four prerequisites to the application of the family purpose doctrine:

(1) the defendant must own or have an interest in or control over the automobile;

(2) the defendant must have made the automobile available for family use;

(3) the driver must be a member of the defendant's immediate household; and

(4) the vehicle must have been driven with the permission or acquiescence of the defendant.

Hicks v. Newman, 283 Ga. App. 352 (2007).

Liability does not attach upon satisfaction of these elements. Once the four requirements are established, the ultimate inquiry upon which liability may attach is whether the parent “had the right to exercise such authority and control that it may be concluded that an agency relationship existed between the parent and child with respect to the use of the vehicle.” Murch v. Brown, 166 Ga. App. 538 (1983).

Following a motor vehicle accident, it is important to investigate who owned and/or controlled the vehicle the at-fault party operated at the time of the accident to identify other potential tortfeasors. After a car accident, do not hesitate to contact The Delashmit Firm to secure representation that will investigate issues like the above to ensure all avenues of liability are considered.

About the Author

Hunter Delashmit

Hunter Delashmit is a seasoned trial attorney who lives in Cartersville, Georgia with his wife and their pit-husky mix, Dobby. After graduating from The University of Tennessee College of Law, Hunter has gained extensive experience through litigating cases in administrative, state, and federal co...

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