Is the co-signer of an auto loan liable for any damages in the event of an accident?

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2011

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Is the co-signer of an auto loan liable for any damages in the event of an accident?

My spouse co-signed for an auto loan for her son. He is the only one listed on the memorandum of title and on the auto insurance policy. Also, his license is currently under full suspension. If he would be driving the auto (illegally of course) and would be involved in an accident, whether it’s his fault or not, would my spouse be liable for any actions that could be brought against him?

Asked on July 15, 2011 under Accident Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

For a more definitive answer, have the loan documents, insurance, title, etc. examined by an attorney, who can look into all the specifics of this particular case. As a general matter, co-signing a car loan does not make one responsible for tort (accident) liability; the owner(s) of a car are potentially liable, as are any driver at the time of the accident, but cosigning a loan, without more, does not make one an owner or make one liable except as to the loan itself.

You should get an attorney's opinion, however, to be sure--your spouse's son is liability waiting to happen. Driving illegally, he would void or give up his right to insurance coverage; if he's in an accident, therefore, there's no insurance to pay the bills. You want to make sure that your spouse is in no way implicated in what could be tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of liability.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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