If my unlicensed and uninsured 16 year old sister got into a car accident, who can sue me?

I am the legal guardian of my 16 year old sister. She and her friend took the friends dads van without permission. My sister was driving and side swiped a new car forcing it to hit to other parked cars. The police gave my sister a misdemeanor ticket for driving without a license. The van she was driving only had liability insurance. I offered to repair the van because I felt its the right thing to do. Although, now I’m deciding to only repair half. After all, his daughter to his van. It’s not like my sister just went and stole a random car. What are the possible repercussions?

Asked on June 8, 2012 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

As the driver, she is potentially liable for all the damage she did, or all injuries she caused, if she was at fault in causing the accident--i.e driving negligently or carelessly. It does not matter whether the van owner's daughter gave her permission: an at-fault driver is potentially liable for all costs and damages, even if driving with permssion. Therefore, she--and thus you, as her legal guardian, since he is a minor--could be liable for all the damage to the van; for the damage to the car she sideswiped; and for damage to the parked cars she knocked the sideswiped car into.

Again, the issue is whether she was at fault; if she was not at fault in causing the accident (e.g. the car she sideswiped was actually at fault and hit her van while she was driving carefully and its driver was texting while driving), then she should not be civilly liable, though she would still have to face the criminal consequences of driving without a license. But if she was at fault, you have considerable potential liability.

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