If we made a car donation and the towing truck driver had an accident, am I liable for damages?

We donated a car. The donation company sent a towing company to tow the car. The driver of the towing company, instead of towing the car on the tow truck decided to drive the car and hit the car in the neighbour’s house. The car did not have a license plate and the title was already given to the towing company’s driver. The car had no air in tires, as the car was parked in my house for 6 months about which I had informed the tow truck driver. The neighbor’s home insurance company has filed a lawsuit against us, claiming $19,000 in damages, stating that we are responsible to pay for them. What we should do?

Asked on June 7, 2016 under Accident Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Physically handing the title to the tow truck driver did not by itself change ownership: until the DMV is visited and the new presumptive owner gives new title to the car to the DMV and changes the registeration of the car, you are still the owner and so liable for any accidents it is in. What you can do:
1) Check your auto insurance policy--will it cover this situation?
2) Even though you, as the owner, can be sued, you can sue the driver, who was at fault in causing the accident, to recover any amounts you have to pay.
3) Similarly, you can sue the driver's employer, the tow company, since the accident occured in the course of his employment. Between driver and employer, you should be able to recover any amounts you ave to pay.
4) Respond to the lawsuit with an "answer" (you can get instructions and possibly sample forms from the court if do this yourself, though you are *strongly* advised to retain an attorney) so you don't lose by default. Review the other side's evidence and proofs, such as of the cost of the damage to the car. You can try to negotiate down to an amount you can pay while suing the driver and employer for their contributions.
(For purpose of this answer, I am assuming the driver is at fault, as anyone hitting a stationary or parked vehicle generally is.)
Again, hire a lawyer: the lawyer can help you respond to this lawsuit while also suing the other responsible parties.


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