What to do if I was struck by a truck who ran a red light while I was turning left on a protected green arrow but the driver didn’t have permission to drive the vehicle?

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What to do if I was struck by a truck who ran a red light while I was turning left on a protected green arrow but the driver didn’t have permission to drive the vehicle?

The person who owned the truck states that they didn’t give permission to the person driving. The story goes like this. The owner of the truck gave the keys to his grandson who gave the keys to his friend who then gave them to his grandson. The insurance company says they are most likely going to deny coverage, but they can’t contact anyone other than the owner of the vehicle because the driver is a known drug addict and felon with no address and the grandson is in rehab. It has already been 30 days and I am being told there is no end in sight for the investigation. How long do they have to accept of deny liability?

Asked on August 12, 2015 under Accident Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

There is no time limit on how long they have to accept or deny liability: the owner's insurer does not work for you (the injured party) and owes no duty to you; their duty is to their insured, and is to defend or pay for him if he may be liable. Of course, while they are "investigating," he's not having to pay anything out--and neither is the insurer--so they have no incentive to wrap this up quickly; the longer it goes on, the better it is for them, since the  longer it is that they are not paying and, in the meantime, you may lose interest and drop the case, or pass away and be unable to sue, etc.

The way to try to force the issue is to sue. Sue the truck's owner. As a general matter, if the owner gave person A the keys and permission to drive, then the owner is responsible for anyone A gave permission to...and anyone whom the person A gave permission in turn allowed to use the truck, etc. So if the owner let's A drive, A let's B drive, and B let's C, the owner is often liable for C's accident. (Generally, when someone is not liable for another's accident in their vehicle, it's because the driver stole the vehicle or otherwise took it completely without any permission or right.)

Sue the owner, since he apparently gave the keys to someone who gave the keys to someone who then had the accident. Let the owner defend himself, if he can, by proving in court that one or more of the people involved took the truck without anyone's permission. You don't need to take the owner's or his insurer's claim that they are not liable at face value; you have the right to put it to the test in court.


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