Is the Owner of a Car Liable for Accidents in Massachusetts?

Suppose you get into an accident, only to learn that the driver who hit you doesn’t own the car they hit you with. In such situations, who would be liable, the car owner or the driver?

Car owners can be liable for accidents, regardless of whether or not they were operating the vehicle during a crash. For example, parents who lend their cars to their kids may be liable for accidents, as might trucking companies that send drivers out on the road. Car owners and negligent drivers can be liable for various damages from an accident, like a victim’s financial losses. Whether or not you can recover non-economic damages may depend on your specific injuries and medical damages. To increase your chances of recovery, our lawyers can help you prepare and bring your claim within the three-year deadline for car accident lawsuits in Massachusetts.

Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan today at (617) 925-6407 to get a free case assessment from our Massachusetts personal injury lawyers.

When Are Car Owners Liable for Accidents in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, the owner of a car may be liable for an accident, even if they were not driving their vehicle at the time. We can review the information from the accident to confirm if the negligent driver is the owner and, if not, what your next steps should be.

For example, suppose a parent lent their car to their child, who then hit you. Under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 231, § 85A, the car’s registration is prima facie evidence of the fact that the registered owner is legally responsible for the driver’s actions. So, in this instance, the parent could be liable for damages due to the child’s negligence since they were the car’s registered owner.

The parent could defend their liability, but doing so is difficult. They would have to show that the driver was not under their control during the accident. For example, if a child stole their parent’s car and the parent reported it to the police, they might not be liable for an accident.

The person who caused the accident could also share liability, even if they do not own the car. For example, suppose a negligent commercial truck driver hit you while transporting goods through Massachusetts. While their employer might be responsible for their actions under vicarious liability, they might also be liable, depending on the accident’s cause.

For example, if the driver recklessly merges into another lane, hitting your car, the driver shares liability with their employer. However, if engine issues cause the crash, the driver might not share liability with their employer. In these types of cases, a truck driver’s status as an independent contractor or regular employee will matter when determining whether or not a victim can also sue the driver’s employer for compensatory damages.

What Damages Are Car Owners Liable for in Massachusetts?

Suppose the car owner is wholly or partially liable for your losses. In that case, our lawyers can estimate your deserved recovery and help you claim the damages you deserve following a crash in Massachusetts.

Economic Damages

Car owners can be liable for economic damages caused by an accident in Massachusetts. For example, if the accident damaged your car, you can recover compensation for those losses. Furthermore, if you need medical care for your injuries, like emergency surgery, special tests, physical therapy, or prescription medications, a lawsuit against the car owner or negligent party can cover those losses.

Victims can recover damages for lost wages related to an accident if they cannot work. Other out-of-pocket expenses, such as child care or transportation costs, are also available in car accident claims in Massachusetts.

Non-Economic Damages

Massachusetts’s no-fault insurance laws make it difficult for victims to recover non-economic damages against negligent drivers or car owners. Under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 231 § 6D, victims can only claim damages for pain and suffering if their injuries cost more than $2,000 to treat or have sustained a serious injury. We can compare your diagnosed injuries to those Massachusetts deems eligible for pain and suffering damages, such as limb loss, permanent and serious disfigurement, and fractures.

Note your emotional difficulties after an accident and consider seeing a mental health professional to document your pain and suffering to make recovery easier.

Punitive Damages

Under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 229 § 2, victims’ survivors may be able to recover punitive damages following fatal auto accidents due to gross negligence or reckless conduct. For example, suppose a commercial trucking company knew a truck was defective but approved it for use anyway. If the truck then stalled out on the highway, resulting in a fatal accident, the jury might award the victim’s survivors punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior.

Deadline to Hold Car Owners Liable for Accidents in Massachusetts

It is important to prioritize determining liability for an accident in Massachusetts, as you will only have a short time to file a lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, the court could dismiss your case.

Under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 260, § 2A, victims must file car accident lawsuits within three years. While this might seem like ample time to sue, you might be preoccupied with your physical recovery, causing you to delay your case. Allow Boston car accident lawyers to review the police report for the accident immediately to confirm if the negligent driver is also the car owner. If they are not the owner, we can investigate the real owner’s liability and gather evidence confirming that fact.

Be sure to bring your claim timely, as delaying it could cause issues with proving certain elements. For example, if you wait to initiate your case right away, some evidence might get lost that could otherwise help your claim. Furthermore, showing your commitment to your financial recovery is important, which is why you should file your claim well before the deadline in Massachusetts.

Call Our Lawyers in Massachusetts About Your Car Accident Today

Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan’s Newton, MA car accident lawyers at (617) 925-6407 to discuss your case for free today.