Uninsured fender bender restitution

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Uninsured fender bender restitution

My adult daughter took her adult brother’s uninsured car without his permission or knowledge and got in a fender bender. The person she hit is going after my son for restitution. How can I get them to leave him alone? My daughter was in court for her offence but they never filed for restitution from her.

Asked on November 30, 2017 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The *only* way for the brother to potentially avoid having to pay would be to press charges against his sister for theft. The law is very straightforward in this regard: if a car is taken without permission, it is stolen; if it is not stolen, the person had permission, even if the permission was implicit rather than explicit or was "ratified" after the fact. So a person is not liable for accidents involving his stolen car--but to escape liability, the brother would have to press criminal charges (and major criminal charges, since stealing a car is a serious crime) against his sister. 
If the sister did not steal the car, the brother, as it's owner, is liable to the person whose car was damaged for the costs of that damage. (A car's owner is liable for the accidents of anyone whom he permits to drive.) However, he in turn could sue his sister to get any money he has to pay from her, since a person who carelessly gets into an accident or costs another money is liable to that person.

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