Is the registered owner of a car that gets in an accident and is without insurance responsible for damages to the other vehicle if the car was driven by other than the registerd owner?

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Is the registered owner of a car that gets in an accident and is without insurance responsible for damages to the other vehicle if the car was driven by other than the registerd owner?

Accident was in California.
The car was registered in my name but driven by my son.
My son was clearly at fault and was uninsured.
The injured party’s insurance company has turned to a collection agency
to collect monetary damages from me since I am the registered owner.
Am I responsible by law to pay these damages?

Asked on March 21, 2016 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you are potentially liable unless your son stole your car--and if he did, to escape liability, you'll have to press charges against him. Otherwise, the owner of a vehicle is responsible/liable for the accidents that someone they let drive (i.e. who did not steal) their car.
Of course, your son, and therefore you, would only be liable if your son was at fault in someway, such as by driving negligently or carelessly: e.g. speeding, driving distractedly, texting while driving, driving in a reckless way, DUI, ignoring stop signs or lights, going too fast for conditions, etc. If he was not at fault and did nothing wrong, he would not be liable. Unfortunately, you indicate that he was "clearly at fault," which makes both him and you liable.


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