If my 17 year old son let his friend practice driving in his car and she had an accident, who is responsible for the damage?

She had only a drivers’ permit. She hit a car. We did not go through our insurance. We feel the friend and her parents are responsible for the damage. They say it is my son’s fault. Who is correct, and should we take them to small claims?

Asked on August 5, 2015 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Since your son is the registered owner of the vehicle, he is liable for the accident.

However, your son's friend can be sued for negligence to recover the cost of repairs to his car and the amount of any judgment against him from the owner of the parked car.

Since your son is a minor, you will need to be appointed guardian ad litem to file a lawsuit on his behalf because a minor cannot file a lawsuit himself.  If your son's friend is also a minor, it would be advisable to name her and her parents as defendants in the lawsuit for negligence because most likely she doesn't have any money.

Depending on the amount of damage to your son's car and the amount of the damage claim from the owner of the parked car will determine whether or not to file the lawsuit in Small Claims Court or a higher court.  Small Claims Court has a limited amount that can be recovered.  If the amount of your son's claim exceeds that amount, you will need to file the lawsuit in a higher court.  If the amount of your son's claim is within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court (is less than the maximum amount for Small Claims Court), file the lawsuit in Small Claims. 

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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Since your son is the registered owner of the vehicle, he is liable for the accident.

However, your son's friend can be sued for negligence to recover the cost of repairs to his car and the amount of any judgment against him from the owner of the parked car.

Since your son is a minor, you will need to be appointed guardian ad litem to file a lawsuit on his behalf because a minor cannot file a lawsuit himself.  If your son's friend is also a minor, it would be advisable to name her and her parents as defendants in the lawsuit for negligence because most likely she doesn't have any money.

Depending on the amount of damage to your son's car and the amount of the damage claim from the owner of the parked car will determine whether or not to file the lawsuit in Small Claims Court or a higher court.  Small Claims Court has a limited amount that can be recovered.  If the amount of your son's claim exceeds that amount, you will need to file the lawsuit in a higher court.  If the amount of your son's claim is within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court (is less than the maximum amount for Small Claims Court), file the lawsuit in Small Claims. 


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