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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 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).


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