Legal Liability & Carpool Accidents
Long before services like Uber and Lyft came along, organized carpools were a common way for people to get to and from work or to help kids get to and from school and team practices. And even as those ridesharing services grew in popularity, carpools remained a convenient way to get around, particularly when people are heading to areas where parking is limited and for people trying to lead more environmentally friendly lifestyles. But if a group of carpoolers gets into a car accident on their way to or from their destination, how does liability work?
Carpool Accidents & Michigan No Fault
The state of Michigan has a no-fault insurance law which requires people involved in car accidents, even passengers, to make their claims for damages through their own insurance, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. If an injured carpooler was a passenger at the time of the accident and doesn’t have their own no-fault insurance policy, it’s very important to contact a car accident lawyer to make sure your claim is handled correctly because there are still ways to get no-fault benefits.
Can Employers be Liable for Carpool Accidents?
When a carpool is part of an official workplace program, liability for crashes can be more complicated. If a carpool was part of an official employer-sponsored or incentivized program, there’s a chance the employer could be liable, depending on the exact nature of the program. For example, if a group of employees decides on their own to carpool to/from work and one of them gets into a car accident one day, the employer would not be responsible since this was an independent decision made by the employees and they were not on the clock when the accident occurred. However, if the employer pays people to participate in a carpooling program, requires them to use a company-owned vehicle for carpooling, or asks employees to run a company-related errand on their way to/from work, then the employer might bear some legal responsibility.
Carpool Accidents & Comparative Negligence
Another unusual liability situation is if a crash was caused by the actions of someone in a car other than the driver. Let’s say a group of carpoolers gets into an accident because one of the passengers suddenly grabbed the steering wheel and caused the car to veer into a car in another lane. Or maybe a passenger riding in the front seat had a cup of coffee that spilled on the driver, causing them to lose control of the car. In a situation like that, the concept of comparative negligence can come into play. Comparative negligence proportionately divides liability between the at-fault parties. So in the example of a passenger suddenly grabbing the steering wheel, the passenger could be found to be fully liable. But in the example of coffee spilling on a driver, exact liability could hinge on what led to the coffee being spilled, such as if the passenger was doing something that would reasonably be seen as careless and would cause the coffee to spill.
Get Help With a Carpool Accident
With the potential complications carpooling accidents can involve, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer for help with your case. A lawyer will be able to answer all of your questions and help you understand how to get the compensation you need while you recover from your injuries. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to get help from a lawyer experienced in dealing with Michigan car accident law. Contact us today for help with your case.
Image: iStock / william87