What is a car owner's potential liability for an auto accident caused by the permissive user of the owner's car? The answer depends on the facts. Let us say that you own a car and that you give Mr. Smith permission to drive your car. If Mr. Smith drives the car in a negligent manner and causes an auto accident and
personal injuries to the other driver, both you and Mr. Smith can be held liable for all the damages caused by the accident. These damages can include compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of income, and property damage. What if the fault free injured driver files a lawsuit against you and Mr. Smith? What if the jury awards the injured driver $100,000.00? California Vehicle Code Section 17151 says in part that the registered owner of a car who loans the car to another driver can only be held liable for damages to one person in the amount of $15,000.00. So you as the owner can only be forced to pay $15,000.00 of the verdict. That doesn't sound so bad. Right? Not so fast. What if you as the registered owner of the car decided to loan your car to Mr. Jones who you knew or should have known was an incompetent or unfit driver? Then assume that Mr. Jones's incompetence or unfitness was a substantial factor in causing an accident and personal injuries. In that scenario you as the registered owner can be held liable for more than $15,000.00 under the legal principle of Negligent Entrustment. Therefore it is important to be careful who you allow to drive your car. If you know or have reason to know that your friendly neighbor likes to have a, "a few for the road", or has a "heavy foot", you should never lend that person your car. Call the Palm Springs and Palm Desert personal injury lawyer, and auto accident lawyer at
Barry Regar APLC for all your questions about accident and injury law.