Car Accident By Someone Who Borrowed Your Car – Registered Owner’s Liability

This article is in regards to Los Angeles car accidents that involve drivers who borrowed the car involved in the accident.  In these situations, registered owners of vehicles are usually concerned with the extent of their liability for the fault and/or negligence of the non-owner driver who borrowed the car, namely the “permissive user.”

California Vehicle Code Section 17150 states that “every owner of a motor vehicle is liable and responsible for death or injury to person or property resulting from a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the operation of the motor vehicle, in the business of the owner or otherwise, by any person using or operating the same with the permission, express or implied, of the owner.”  So the owner is not off the hook if the car is driven by a permissive user who causes property damage or personal injury to another.

However, is the owner’s liability limited or unlimited? The answer is, it depends.

In situations where the registered owner was not negligent in entrusting the vehicle to the permissive user, the registered owner’s liability is limited to California’s minimum liability limits of  fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000.00) for one person accidents and thirty thousand dollars ($30,000.00) for accidents involving two or more persons. See California Vehicle Code Section 17151(a).

Where the owner was negligent in entrusting the vehicle to the permissive user, such as when the driver is unlicensed, has a known history of substance abuse, drinking and driving, excessive speeding, driving unsafely, and/or prior runnings with the law while driving, the owner’s limited liability fades away. See Fremont Compensation Insurance Co. v. Hartnett (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 669, 675-676 and CACI 720.

In either of these cases, it’s always a good idea to carry adequate insurance limits to protect yourself if you ever fall into the unfortunate situation where a permissive user causes property damage or personal injury to another.  In addition, having proper Estate Planning in advance of such tragedies, such as Trusts and Trust owned assets, adds another layer of protection.

If you are involved in an auto accident where property damage or personal injury was caused by a permissive user, or you are the driver yourself, please do not hesitate to contact us at (818) 835-5396 for a free consultation regarding your case.

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