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What To Do When the At-Fault Driver Has No Insurance


Although Washington has one of the nation’s most stringent mandatory auto insurance laws, the Evergreen State has one of the highest percentages of uninsured motorists in the country. Frequently, people who think they have nothing to lose, like uninsured drivers, take reckless chances. So, the possibility of an uninsured motorist accident is high. But compensation is still available in court.

Even if the driver who hit you doesn’t have insurance, one of the liability theories discussed below may apply.

Owner Liability

Usually, owners are liable for damages if they knowingly allow incompetent drivers to use their motor vehicles. Evidence of knowledge includes no drivers’ license, an invalid drivers’ license, and a poor driving record that includes recent at-fault accidents.

Washington has a family purpose statute, which makes it easier to prove owner negligence if a family member borrowed a car, like a son borrowing a father’s car. This doctrine applies if the car is owned, provided, or maintained by the parent, for the customary conveyance of family members and other family business, and at the time of the accident, the car is being driven by a member of the family for whom the car is maintained, and  with the express or implied consent of the parent.

Commercial negligent entrustment cases, like a U-Haul truck wreck, are complex in Washington. The state doesn’t have a vicarious liability law, which means the federal Graves Amendment limits liability in these cases. So, only the most experienced Seattle personal injury lawyer should handle such matters.

Employer Liability

The respondeat superior theory usually applies if the tortfeasor was a truck driver, Uber driver, or other commercial operator.  This legal theory has two basic parts:

  • Employee: Under Washington negligence law, a driver is an employee if a company controlled that driver in any way. Therefore, independent contractors, owner-operators, and even unpaid volunteers are usually employees in this context.
  • Scope of Employment: Washington negligence law also defines this prong very broadly. Any act which benefits the employer in any way is within the course and scope of employment. This category includes an operator driving a car with the company logo. The free advertising benefits the company.

Other employer liability theories, which often apply in assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent entrustment.

Alcohol Provider Liability

Washington is one of the few states with a dram shop law. These laws hold commercial alcohol providers, such as private clubs and bars, liable for alcohol-related car crashes and other alcohol-related torts, such as assault and battery. Liability attaches if the establishment illegally sells alcohol to a patron.

It’s illegal to sell alcohol to an intoxicated patron. Evidence on this point include physical symptoms, such as slurred speech and bloodshot eyes, along with recent alcohol purchases at that establishment. Unlicensed, after-hour, and underage sales are also illegal.

Work With a Savvy King County Lawyer

Compensation may be available even if the at-fault driver didn’t have insurance. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Seattle, contact the Emerald Law Group. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.


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