Motorists operate their vehicles every day in order to go to work or for
pleasure. These vehicles may not be just driven by the actual owner of
the vehicle, but also friends and family or employees and agents. When
that car is involved in a motor vehicle accident, there are a lot of potential
issues as to liability, who a victim may seek compensation from, and sorting
out insurance coverage and be difficult. This is why you need to retain an
experienced Kingston car accident attorney to represent your rights and ensure you obtain the maximum compensation
The Permissive Use Doctrine
New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 388 states:
“Every owner of a vehicle used or operated in this state shall be
liable and responsible for death or injuries to person or property resulting
from negligence in the use or operation of such vehicle, in the business
of such owner or otherwise, by any person using or operating the same
with the permission, express or implied, of such owner.”
This statute might come as a surprise, but it plainly states what the permissive
use doctrine is and its relation to liability. That is, any and all persons
using a vehicle with the express or implied permission of the owner will
cause the owner to be liable for all
negligent acts of the driver that cause injury to others. Therefore, not only may the driver be sued,
but so can the owner even if the owner wasn’t driving. Note, however,
that this rule is subject to exceptions in certain circumstances; always
contact an experienced attorney to evaluate these considerations.
Whether or not a motorist was working when the vehicle accident occurred,
the motorist has the same duty to operate the vehicle with reasonable
care. One can always attempt to hold the driver liable, but if he or she
was within the course and scope of employment, the employer will be liable
as well. Course and scope of employment means that the employee had permission
to use the business vehicle and that he or she was acting in furtherance
of the company when the accident occurred. It is more advantageous to
seek compensation from the employer because the insurance policy is usually
deeper permitting for enhanced coverage.
Accidents Caused by the Acts of Passengers
It is important to understand that the duty of reasonable care applies
to drivers and passengers alike. What the duty entails is somewhat different
though based on the facts. Drivers must operate the vehicle with the care
of a reasonable prudent driver under similar circumstances. Passengers
must not distract drivers to the point that an accident is caused by the
Roadway Conditions, Defects, and Improper Roadway Design
Here, when we discuss poor roadway conditions we are not referring to weather
conditions. Rather, we are discussing the ways in which roadways are designed,
constructed, and maintained.
Roadways have been constructed to accommodate motor vehicle traffic for
nearly 100 years. In that time the law has developed to deal with proper
roadway design, construction, and maintenance.
Roadway design must be accord with accepted practice within the industry
and within the requirements of the law. Signs must be of adequate size,
color, and be placed within a specific distance from the road itself.
Guardrails must be installed where geographic conditions require their
installation. Traffic control devices such as signs, signals, warnings
about conditions, and the like must also be installed.
The road must be adequately maintained as well. The most common issues
in roadway maintenance relate to filling potholes and keeping roadways
safe during inclement weather. If a municipality was on notice of the
defective condition, and the agency failed to either repair the condition
or to warn motorists of the condition, the agency may be liable for any
injuries caused by the defect.
Since most roadways are constructed at the bequest of a governmental body
and then maintained by a governmental agency, the concept of sovereign
immunity must be discussed. In short, New York has largely abrogated the
concept and citizens negligently injured by the acts of government employees
can hold the government liable.
If a citizen was injured by a municipality’s negligent design, construction,
and/or maintenance of a roadway, the injured party may sue the government.
Note that the plaintiff would have to prove that the defect was the cause
of the accident and that there was no reasonable or rational basis for
constructing the road in the manner in which it was constructed. In regard
to improper maintenance, the municipality would have had to been on notice
that the dangerous condition existed.