What is my liability for having an accident with a car that I was helping the owner pay the note on and thought was still insured by them?

UPDATED: Sep 24, 2014

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What is my liability for having an accident with a car that I was helping the owner pay the note on and thought was still insured by them?

An associate was having trouble keeping up with her car payments, so she offered to let me use the car if I paid the car note. There was never anything in writing, however I was told that to keep the insurance low she would keep the insurance payments up and on her policy. Then, roughly 6 months after, I had been paying the car note, I got into an accident. She told me that at the time there was no longer insurance on the car. I have multiple texts stating that I had no idea there was no insurance. Now this really put me in a jam because I’m getting a bill for almost $4,000. She is threatening me with legal action because she has put the car in the shop to get it fixed and wants me to help pay for it (which I would have until she started threatening me).

Asked on September 24, 2014 under Accident Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If you were driving the car and were negligent (e.g. driving carelessly) in causing the accident, you are potentially responsible for the cost of the damage you did--the fact that you were paying the note in exchange for use of the car does not change that fact. Similarly, whether or not there is insurance, if you were at fault in the accident, the car's owner could choose to sue you. So if you were at fault as the driver, you most likely have to pay; if you were not at fault, though--for example, some other driver hit you--then you should not be liable and the owner should be going after the at-fault person.

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