What is an owner’s responsibility for a car accident if they were not driving their car at the time of an accident?

UPDATED: Nov 23, 2014

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What is an owner’s responsibility for a car accident if they were not driving their car at the time of an accident?

A man ran into the back of my vehicle while I was stopped at a red light. The driver is not the owner of the car nor is he under tyhe owners insurance policy. The night of the accident the driver was arrest for a host of things including a hit and run and DUI. The owner of the vehicle is claiming that she did not give the driver permission to the drive the car and the driver isnt really cooperating. Is she still held liable for the repairs on my vehicle?

Asked on November 23, 2014 under Accident Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The owner is not liable IF the car was in fact stolen (taken without permission or authority); a car's owner is only liable for the acts of permitted drivers. However, the owner cannot simply assert this and have done; if you do not believe her, sue the car's owner and force her to prove that the driver took the car without any permission (e.g. stole it). If the car was stolen, the owner should have filed a police report and be looking to press charges; if the owner has not done these things, it may be very hard to show that the driver did not have permission. It may also be hard to show that the driver did not have permission if he has certain relationships with the owner (e.g. son, brother, boyfriend, etc.) and/or has been allowed to borrow the car before (which could show a general consent to use it).

On the other hand, if the driver truly did take the car without permission, then the owner would not be liable. You could try to sue the driver, but he may not have any money to pay (especially if he is, or is going to, jail).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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