If I co-signa lease of my son’s car and he has an accident, can I be held liable?

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If I co-signa lease of my son’s car and he has an accident, can I be held liable?

He is 35. He would be the only one on the registration.

Asked on June 24, 2011 under Accident Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Cosigning a *loan* without also being on title would not necessarily make one liable for accidents, personal injury, etc. caused by the car, since a loan is  purely financial transaction--it has nothing to do with a right to use or control the car.

However, cosigning a *lease* may be different. The lease gives the lessees--the people on the lease--the right to possession of the car, the same way as being on the lease of a home or apartment gives you a right to possession. Even if you then did not get put on the registration, if you are on the lease as a signor, it may be that you are taken to be in control of the car and potentially liable.

It would likely be safer for you to not be on the lease itself, but instead to execute a separate document guaranteeing your son's obligations--you want to make sure your only involvement is purely financial, as a guarantor. It would be a good idea to bring the lease document to an attorney, to review for you; the attorney can look at it's specific language, see what your exposure is, and perhaps develop some alternative with the dealer, such as a guaranty rather than being on the lease.


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