Can a Car Owner Be Sued for Another Driver’s Accident?

Imagine you find yourself in this all too common scenario. Your friend is in town and asks to borrow your car for the weekend. Having known this person since high school, you feel confident in lending him your car.

You hand him your keys and decide to spend a nice relaxing weekend at home.

On Saturday you receive a frantic phone call from your friend informing you that he has been in a fairly serious accident.

Relieved to hear that your friend is okay, your next thought immediately goes to potential repercussions for you. Can you be sued or are you liable for another driver’s accident?

In this brief guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about whether you can be sued if someone else driving your car is involved in an accident.

While finding yourself in a similar situation can be undoubtedly stressful, there are plenty of critical steps that need to be taken to legally protect yourself and reduce the chance of any significant repercussions. It is also highly recommended that you consider calling a New Jersey auto lawyer as soon as possible.

What Happens When Someone Driving Your Car Gets in An Accident

First the good news. Despite the grim scenario shared above, in most motor accidents the driver in question is the one who will be held liable for any damages or injuries caused.

That being said, in a small number of cases, the owner of the car can be held responsible if a variety of conditions are met, even if you’re not present during the accident.

If someone who was driving your car is involved in an accident, it’s crucial that you understand the term negligent entrustment and what it means.

Negligent entrustment essentially means that it can be proven that you allowed someone who was unfit to drive to operate your motor vehicle. Generally speaking, if the person you allowed to drive your car fits one or all of the following criteria, there could be a case made against you for being complicit in the out of the accident, even if you were not necessarily present at the time of the accident.

  •  The driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  •  The driver was unlicensed to operate your vehicle or was knowingly underage
  •  The driver had a history of reckless driving, included or not limited to multiple traffic violations, speeding tickets, and so on
  •  The driver lacked the experience to safely and effectively operate your car
  •  The driver knowingly had decreased visibility or reaction times due to illness, medical conditions, or natural signs of old age

It’s important to note that, in the cases of proving negligent entrustment, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you were aware that the driver in question was a cause for concern.

For example, if your friend was driving intoxicated, but you were under the impression he/she never drank, then it would often be a difficult case to prove negligent entrustment with concern to your involvement. On the other hand, if you knew the person in question frequently drove while under the influence, then you may have the charge of negligent entrustment brought on you.

Also, if you were to allow an individual with a known criminal past to use your car for illegal purposes, then the government may also request that you forfeit the ownership of your vehicle.

Ultimately, if proven to be negligent, you may be held responsible for financial damages through a civil suit, but each situation may result in a different outcome depending on the specific circumstances of the accident and context at hand.

Negligent entrustment is one of the most common reasons in which the owner of a car can be sued even if they were not driving, but there are a few other special cases which are essential to understand.

Negligent Maintenance

This type of negligence involves the owner of the vehicle failing to maintain his or her car to proper safety standards.

For example, if you are aware that your vehicle’s brakes are known to malfunction on occasion, but you still allow someone to drive your vehicle without informing him or her of the fault, you may be held liable if and when an accident were to occur. In this specific case, you might be on the hook for injuries or damages caused.

Family Car Doctrine

This type of negligence involves entrusting a family member to use your vehicle when it is illegal for them to do so by law. This scenario is common when a parent allows their underage child to drive and an accident occurs. If you happen to let your unlicensed child take control of the wheel, then you would typically be held responsible for all damages and injuries caused.

Signing an Underage Driver’s License Application

This scenario occurs when a parent or guardian signs a minor’s driver’s license application in which case the signer of the application can sometimes be held accountable depending on the specifics and context of the accident in question.

Has your child wrecked your car? Contact us at 201-854 -2200 or email our firm to get assistance.

Employer Liability

While not directly related to letting a family member or friend drive your vehicle, employer liability refers to the responsibility an employer has regarding any potential accident involving a company vehicle. If for example, a truck driver is driving recklessly and causes an accident, the employer is often but not always held responsible if it can be proven the employee in question was not fit to be behind the wheel.

It’s crucial you take the time to understand the potential repercussions and what may or may not work towards holding you liable for the damages and injuries that occur in an accident using your car.

Does Liability Coverage Apply When Someone Else Is Using My Car?

It’s important to note that, in certain circumstances, liability coverage does not always follow the driver if he or she gets in an accident while driving another car.

If you have liability coverage and your friend crashes your car, in most cases, your liability coverage will kick in, and your insurance will assist in paying out the damages of the other vehicle. If your insurance limit cannot cover the entire amount of damages, the driver’s insurance will often cover the rest.

That said, as with virtually all insurance policies, it’s essential that you understand precisely what your current insurance plan does and does not cover. In situations where you are unsure, you can sometimes be held accountable for a significant amount of money if your insurance policy does not cover the specific accident. To ensure you are covered, we always recommend that you call your insurance provider and get exact details of your plan.

What to Do If Someone Driving Your Car Was in An Accident

Ensure All Parties Are Safe

If someone is using your car, the first thing to do after an accident is to make sure that anyone involved receives the medical treatment he or she needs.

Don’t Panic — Begin Taking the Necessary Steps

The second step is to take a deep breath and realize that while the situation may be stressful, it’s not the end of the world.

After you assess the situation, it’s of great importance to contact a Jersey City car accident attorney immediately. We will work with you every step of the way to ensure the process is handled within accordance with the law and help you understand your options for your specific situation.

We know how stressful a situation like this can be and are more than happy to help you navigate the process.

If someone driving your car was recently in an accident and you need legal assistance, then be sure to call 201-854 -2200 or email our firm for a free, no obligation consultation. Hablamos Español.

Call 201-854-2200 or Message Us for a Free Consultation & Important Answers about Your Legal Options | Hablamos Español


Read Our Latest Blog Posts