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Are car owners responsible for accidents?


Connecticut holds negligent or reckless drivers financially responsible for injuries caused to victims of car accidents. However, a party who was not in the driver's seat or even the car during the crash may also be held liable for these accidents.

Connecticut law expands liability for car accidents under the family car doctrine. The owner of the vehicle may be held responsible for injuries caused by drivers of the vehicle when the owner maintains the car for their family's use and convenience. The driver, however, had to be authorized to drive the vehicle for the family's vehicle and convenience.

Vehicle owners are held equally liable for damages caused by the driver. The owner may, however, defend against this legal presumption by proving that the driver was not authorized to drive the car when the accident occurred.

The family car doctrine presumption is not defeated through the mere presentation of evidence. Vehicle owners must introduce evidence which convinces the jury that the owner did not authorize the driver to operate the vehicle.

For example, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that a lower court committed reversible error when it did not instruct the jury on the family car doctrine and the presumption that the owner's car was authorized to drive the vehicle which allegedly caused the accident. In that case, the car owner's 18-year-old son allegedly drove the vehicle into the rear of the car driven by the plaintiff and caused several injuries.

Car accident victims may need legal assistance to help determine whether a driver was reckless or negligent and the parties that may be held responsible for compensation for a serious injury, medical expenses and other losses. Legal representation may help parties in settlement negotiations and legal proceedings.

Source: JUSTIA US Law, "Jancura v. Szwed, 176 Conn. 285 (1978)," Assessed April 6, 2015

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