The “Operator Deemed to be Agent of Owner” Rule: Establishing Liability in an Auto Accident Case

Establishing liability in an auto accident case

Third party driver liability for auto accidents in Washington D.C. falls under the rule of “operator deemed to be agent of owner”. Motor vehicle operation in the jurisdiction by any person other than the registered owner, with the express or implied prima facie consent of the owner, is deemed the agent. Shared liability for injuries in a lawsuit after an auto accident protects an owner who was not present at the time of the incident under the District of Columbia’s interpretation of contributory negligence.

Doctrine of Pure Contributory Negligence

The District of Columbia’s Doctrine of Pure Contributory Negligence outlines rules to limitations for recovery. In cases where even 1% of the negligence commissioned in a case is found to be the culpability of a plaintiff, recovery is barred. Exception to the doctrine is gross negligence of common carriers, cited in employee injury liability lawsuits. Unlike comparative negligence in tort law, which allows for partial or full recovery of compensation from owners in some jurisdictions, the rule elements of pure contributory negligence are strict. For a plaintiff to collect compensatory remedies for injuries as result of a defendant’s negligence, the following facts must be present in the case:

  • Forewarning or refrain was owed, and there was breach of duty to a reasonable standard of care
  • Proximate cause of the injury is found in the Defendant’s actions (or inactions) and as result, the plaintiff suffered actual harm and other damages (i.e., hospital bills, lost wages, pain and suffering)

Establishing the Defendant’s Negligence

When involved in an auto accident in Washington D.C., it is possible to establish not only pure contributory negligence of a defendant, but also a plaintiff “owner” or “agent”. For example, a defendant must prove that another driver(s), an “owner” or “agent”, directly contributed to the accident to avoid paying remedies for injuries or property damage. While this does not alleviate operators from liability for accidents, owners are generally protected by this law if not present at the time of the incident. In cases where an auto accident victim is also evidenced to have a failed duty of care to a passenger or another driver, counter negligence is established, barring recovery on basis of at least partial “fault” for his or her own injuries.

Filing an Auto Accident Claim in Washington, D.C.

Insured auto owners can protect themselves from third party liability for injuries and property damages caused by an agent or another driver after an auto collision takes place. If you are a vehicle owner, or have been involved as an agent in an auto accident in Washington D.C. and are seeking legal representation, call the Law Offices of Duane O. King, PC at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a consultation or to learn more about filing a negligence claim.