Who is liable for initial property damage if a boy steals his mom’s rental, rear-ends our car and totals it?

An 18 year old steals his moms car, rear-ends our car off into a ravine and totals it. He tries to take off but his car leaked fluid and died out 1/2 mile down the road. Our insurance adjuster says the other party doesn’t have the boy under their insurance nor does the boy live with them? Our adjuster also said our insurance won’t cover anything for us right now or help with a rental. This all has to come out of our own pocket. Is this right?

Asked on August 14, 2012 under Accident Law, Hawaii

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If the car was truly stolen without permission and the young man was 18 (a legal adult) at the time, his mother would not be liable and he would not be under her insurance. However, he would be personally liable, and you could sue him personally for your losses. Of course, if he has little or no money or income, you may not be able to recover anything.

If he was less than 18 at the time, his mother would be responsible for his acts and you could sue her (even if her insurance won't pay, you could still try to get the money from her). Or if she did let him take the car, then she would be responsible and her insurance would seem to apply, since he was a permitted driver.

You should sue both him and her. Let her prove in court that her son stole her car without permission. If she has not filed a police report on the subject or press charges against him, she might not be able to do that.


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