Can my SO be sued for totalling someone else’s vehicle?

Earlier this year one of our friends asked us to keep his vehicle at our house for a few months and said that my husband could drive it while it was at our house. The insurance card in the glove box indicated the car had insurance. After a month or so, a semi ran my husband off the road in this vehicle, and the vehicle was totaled. Only after this happened did we find out the insurance had lapsed. The car was not paid off I thought it was mandatory to have full coverage on a vehicle until it’s paid off? I paid over 500 to cover the towing costs and return the vehicle to the owner who sold it for parts. Now the owner is threatening to sue unless we pay him 3000 by the end of next month so that he can buy a different vehicle. I clearly don’t have that kind of money and want to know what we can expect if a lawsuit is filed? Oh, and I think my husband got a reckless driving ticket, or something since it was a single vehicle accident the semi didn’t stop….the judge dismissed/dropped the ticket – not sure if that info is pertinent. Thanks for any insight.

Asked on October 30, 2017 under Accident Law, Georgia


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The registered owner of the vehicle can sue your husband for negligence for its loss. The owner's damages (monetary compensation he is seeking in the lawsuit) would be the value of the vehicle. The fact that the vehicle was uninsured does not prevent the owner from suing your husband. A court judgment in favor of the owner can be enforced against your husband with a wage garnishment.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If your husband was "at fault" in causing the accident or totalling the vehicle, he can be sued. (Or more accurately: anyone can file a lawsuit against you, even a baseless or groundless one; but only if your husband was at fault would the suit be valid and might he be liable.) Anyone who damages another's car through his negligence or carelessness--like driving it recklessly or carelessly--is liable for the damage he does. If the ticket had not been dismissed, it's almost certain that, if sued, you would lose: losing on, or pleading guilty to, the reckless driving would be powerful evidence of negligence. Having the ticket dismissed helps you, but does not guaranty you'd win, since the person suing may be able to prove his case--that your husband was at fault--som other way. If he can't prove fault, he will lose.

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