If my wife bought my stepson a car in her name, can we be held liable if he is in ann accident?

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If my wife bought my stepson a car in her name, can we be held liable if he is in ann accident?

On my wife’s recent visit to see her son, she bought a car in her name along with the insurance for her son to drive. He has no drivers license due to a prior DUI. If he causes damage, hurts someone or kills someone with that car, can I be held liable. All of our married assets are in my name only.

Asked on April 5, 2015 under Accident Law, West Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you could potentially be held liable:

1) Clearly your wife could be liable, as the owner of the car. The owner of a vehicle is liable for any accidents, damage, or injury caused by a driver she allows to use the car, if that driver is at fault. Given that your stepson has a DUI history and no license, it's highly likely he would be, or at least would be found to be, at fault.

2) If a court felt that married--i.e. what would normally be joint--assets were in your name only to protect them from creditors but that in all ways but title they were joint assets, the court might ignore the titling of them as ruse or artifice to defraud creditors and treat them as joint assets. That's to say this is the case, but assuming your wife does make sure of or get the benefit of at least some of these assets, a court could find that titling or ownership "on paper" is overruled by the actual use and possession.


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