Q. I was in a car accident during my pregnancy and my baby was born with a
deformity as a result of injuries from the accident. Does my child have any legal
A. Many states today will permit an action by a child for the consequences of such
prenatal (before birth) injuries. (In states with no-fault automobile insurance, your right to
sue often is limited.) Most courts also will allow a wrongful death action if the baby dies
from the injuries after birth.
Q. Someone recently stole my car and then wrecked it, injuring passengers in
another vehicle. Now one of those passengers is trying to sue me. Can they win? Am I
A. Probably not, since the thief did not have your permission to use the car,
although a lot would depend on the law in your state. Suppose you left your car unlocked
with the keys in it, making it easy for the thief to steal. This could be negligence. Even
then, most courts generally will not hold you liable if the thief later injures someone by
negligent driving. That is because courts hold that you could not foresee that your actions
ultimately would result in such injuries. In a few cases, though, courts have looked at
whether your actions caused an unreasonable risk of harm to someone else. If you left
your car parked with the engine running, for example, you might be liable if the car thief
then injures children playing nearby. In a no-fault state, on the other hand, it might be
difficult–if not impossible–for the passenger to sue you.
Q. I was hit by a car driven by a drunk driver who was going home after a
night out. What can I do, in addition to suing the drunk driver?
A. If you live in a state that has a Dram Shop Act, you may be able to recover from
the tavern owner where the drunk driver was served the liquor. Such acts usually come
into play when intoxicated people served by the bar later injure somebody while driving.
Some of those laws also make tavern owners liable when drunk customers injure others on
or off the premises. But some courts say a tavern owner will not be liable unless the sale
of the liquor itself was illegal.
Q. My wife was injured when her car was hit by one being driven by some
kids who had been drinking at the home of our neighbor. May I take any action
against the neighbor, who supplied the liquor to the youths?
A. Possibly. Courts have imposed liability against such neighbors or parents when
they have served liquor to minors. Parents can be liable for negligent supervision of their
children. But as a general rule, courts have said that social hosts are not responsible for the
conduct of their guests, unless the hosts routinely allow guests to drink too much–or take
illegal drugs-and then put them into their cars and send them out on the highway.
Q. I was injured when my automobile collided with a truck driven by a
delivery person. Can I recover damages from the driver or the employer?
A. You may be able to recover from both. Under a form of strict liability, known
as vicarious liability, you probably can recover from the deliveryperson employer. Under
the law, employers may be held liable to third persons for acts committed by employees within the scope of their job. Although the employer was not negligent, it becomes
indirectly liable for the negligence of its employee. Was the employee making a delivery
when the accident occurred? If so, the employer is liable, since deliveries clearly is part of
the driver’s job. But if the employee first stopped at a restaurant for drinks and dinner with
friends, the employer may be able to escape liability.
Q. A car ran over my dog. Can I recover from the driver?
A. Yes, you might win a lawsuit. A dog is property, and you have suffered
property damage. You will have to show that the driver was negligent.