when a 3rd party is at fault for a car accident

Determining Liability when a Third Party Causes a Car Accident

There are millions of auto accidents in the United States each year, and these accidents claim the lives of tens of thousands of individuals and severely injures hundreds of thousands more. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 90% of car accidents are caused by some type of human error. The most common errors have to do with mistakes or careless actions on the part of drivers, but there are a considerable number of cases in which a party that was not directly involved in the crash may be at fault. This is known as third-party liability.

When a party other than the drivers involved contributes to a vehicle accident, it almost always means that any legal claim to compensate injured individuals for their losses will become more complicated. An extensive investigation will be required to identify any and all parties that may have contributed and establish a causal link between their actions and the accident.

Third Parties that Could be Responsible for a Vehicle Accident


When an employer provides a company vehicle for an employee to drive, or the employee drives a personal vehicle during working hours while performing occupational duties, the employer is on the hook for any auto accidents the employee might be responsible for. This relationship often comes into play with commercial truck accidents in which the driver is employed by the trucking company.

Sometimes the employer/employee relationship is not as clear-cut, such as when a commercial driver is classified as an independent contractor. In some of these types of cases, it might turn out that the driver actually meets the technical definition of an employee, making the company liable for the accident.

Vehicle Owners/Lessors

If a person who owns or has control of the vehicle lends it to someone that they know is unfit to operate the vehicle safely, it might be possible to hold the owner or lessor liable for an accident caused by the driver under the legal theory known as negligent entrustment. An unfit driver could be someone who is unlicensed, inexperienced, incompetent, has a medical condition (such as epilepsy) that puts them at greater risk of a seizure, is intoxicated or has a history of drunk driving, or has a history of driving recklessly.

Vehicle Product Makers

Some auto accidents result from a vehicle defect that creates a hazard during the course of driving the vehicle. For example, if the vehicle owner just installed a set of brand-new tires and one of those tires blows out while traveling down the highway, then they may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer, distributor, or any other party within the product’s supply chain. The same would hold true for other vehicle failures, such as a computer dashboard malfunction or newly installed brakes that fail to stop the vehicle.


A passenger could sometimes be held liable for a crash if their actions contribute directly to it. For example, if a passenger in the front seat grabs hold of the steering wheel and causes the car to collide with another vehicle or object. This type of situation is most common with teen passengers or passengers who are intoxicated.

Alcohol Providers

Like most other states, Alabama has laws in place (known as “dram shop” laws) that allow an injured party to go after an individual or place of business that provides alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated. This situation most often occurs when a bartender serves drinks to someone who is already clearly drunk and then that person drives their vehicle away from the establishment and gets into an accident.

To prove liability in a case like this, you need to have clear and convincing evidence that the person who was served alcohol was already intoxicated. This will most often include the testimony of witnesses and any video footage that might be available.

Injured in a Car Accident in Alabama? Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone close to you got injured in an auto accident, there could be parties other than the driver who could hold some responsibility for the crash. Before dealing with an insurance company, it makes sense to at least speak with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney to review your case and discuss your legal rights and options.

If your accident happened in Alabama, Hedge Copeland, P.C. is here to help. Call our office today at (251) 432-8844 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We look forward to serving you!