If my niece lent us her car and my unlicensed driver daughter took it without permission and was involved in an accident, is my niece liable for the damages?

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If my niece lent us her car and my unlicensed driver daughter took it without permission and was involved in an accident, is my niece liable for the damages?

Asked on January 4, 2012 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In the case you describe, where not only did your daughter not have permission to use  the car but, since she was unlicensed and could not lawfully drive, it would be beyond reasonable expectation that she might take the car, no, the niece would not seem to be liable for the damages. People are generally not responsible for damages flowing from the unpermissioned, wrongful, and/or criminal acts of others.

Rather, your daughter would be liable, if she is an adult; or if she is a minor, you would likely be the one liable for the damages (since parents are typically liable for the wrongful acts of their minor children). Even if your daughter is an adult, you could find yourself liable, too, if you were negligent in facilitating her taking the car. (E.g. she has borrowed or driven cars without a license before, putting you warning that she does this; you left the keys out where she could find them.)


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