Who is liable if parents left their vehicle with their son while away but he and a friend became intoxicated and were in an accident with the friend behind the wheel?

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Who is liable if parents left their vehicle with their son while away but he and a friend became intoxicated and were in an accident with the friend behind the wheel?

The son got drunk, invited his friend over and took the car out and crashed it. Apparently the friend was driving when they crashed. Who is responsible if they were both blacked out intoxicated and don’t recall making such a decision?

Asked on February 12, 2015 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The parents would be liable, since a permitted or authorized driver (the son) allowed or permitted another person to drive it, which person then drove negligently (unreasonably carelessly--e.g. DUI/DWI) and caused the accident. The son could be liable, too, if he was an adult, though if a minor, his liability would go back to his parents. The friend who actually drove drunk and crashed would be liable, too, if he was an adult, or his legal guardians/parents if he was a minor. Multiple people can therefore be liable, and if they can't work their liabiltiy out among themselves, their respective liability could be determined by court in a lawsuit.

Being blacked out or not remembering who did what is not a defense to liability.


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