Who is liable for an accident if my son's car passed a state inspection?
My son had an accident on 02/01/10 at approximately 5:30 AM and there were no other cars involved or injuries, but his car suffered about $7K in damages. The car lost control when his back tire blew out and he crashed into a barrier wall. Here's the thing that really bothers me about the whole situation he faces; the car was inspected on 01/23/10 at a car agency and passed both mechanical and emissions required by the state. However, upon examining the tires I found that the rear tires were dry rotted and as the collision adjuster stated was the probable cause of the accident.
1) As the driver and owner, your son is definitely liable. The car and its proper maintenance is absolutely his responsibility.
2) There are some circumstances in which you son may be able to sue, to offset his liability, a party also responsible. Whether or not the inspector, etc. is liable here depends on:
a) Is the state inspection of tires? If not, there was no duty or obligation for the inspector to look.
b) Even if the tires were part of what the inspector should look at, was the problem one that normally would be discernable during the course of that inspection? If not (if it would take a more expert, longer, more detailed, etc. look; or require looking into the inside of the tires or special equipment), there would be no negligence and no liability.
If there was a duty to look at tire and the problem could be reasonably discrened during that type of inspection, there may be liability. Note that many state funtions are exempted from liablity, and even when they are not, there is usually a very short time frame to file a claim. If you think there might be liability, discuss the matter with an attorney now rather than waiting. A brief phone call should help you determine whether there is an possibility of state liability or whether the state is excempted from liability in cases like this.
If your son had collision coverage on his car, will it not cover the damages? An insurance company will sometimes go after another liable party, to recoup what it pays out. This usually occurs in the context of a multi-vehicle accident. I am assuming the collision adjuster you refer to is for his insurance company. You have to look at the practicality of the situation as to whether to take it any further, if there is indeed liability on the part of the inspection agency.
Asking who is liable here is not any more important than asking what is the value of pursuing the agency. If your son had a deductible, that would be all you would really gain from pursuing them. Is it worth it to you to do so? You need to ask yourself what it is you want from this. And if the dry rot was obvious you sure do not want to go back to that agency and do want to let them know about your dissatisfaction (hope you took photos) . They might even decide to offer you the deductible and any other damages not recovered through your insurance company. In PA, inspection of tires is most definitely part of the formal inspection!!! You might want to call a local attorney to see what they think about the situation, but you may be able to work this one out on your own without incurring any fees.