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Is the Owner of a Car Liable for an Accident?

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A Cook, Software analyst & Blogger.

Is the Owner of a Car Liable for an Accident: We all like to help our friends in their time of need, and sometimes we may be persuaded to borrow our cars to do this. However, can our friend’s negligence hold us liable for their actions? What happens when they get in a car accident with our car in Santa Barbara?

According to California’s Vehicle code section 17150, by the “permissive use” principle, we are liable for the accident as the car’s owner.

Is the Owner of a Car Liable for an Accident?

Now that might not sound fair, but with the help of a car accident attorney in Santa Barbara, we might be able to reduce our costs or prove fault.

Here is everything you need to know about borrowed car accidents in California and what you can do about it as the car owner.

Owner’s Limited Liability and the Permissive Use Principle

When you lend your car to someone else, and they get in an accident, you as the car’s owner are liable as well. This is because of how auto insurance works. All drivers must have car insurance that covers the vehicle.

You have a limited liability as the owner. If the accident resulted in wrongful death or injuries, the car owner may receive up to $15,000 in fines.

If the car accident harmed multiple people, then the penalties could reach $30,000. The property damage liability is $5,000.

However, if the damages you incurred exceed some of these limits, then the at-fault driver insurance company might have to cover the remaining amount.

You have to consider that these rules only apply if there aren’t other exceptional factors in the car accident event. For example, you can face full liability as the car owner in certain scenarios.

When the Limited Liability Doesn’t Apply

You can’t borrow your car recklessly, and if you do, you are fully liable as the car owner for any accident.

For example, if you lend your car to an unlicensed driver, you are committing a negligent act that will apply separately alongside the car crash incident. This is referred to as “independent negligence.” 

Is the Owner of a Car Liable for an Accident?

A common defense strategy that your lawyer can use in this scenario is to prove that you didn’t know that the driver you lent your car to didn’t have a license.

However, this may only work if the driver had a fake license that they used to deceive you.

You are also fully liable as the car owner if you borrowed your car from a person knowing that it had a defect or malfunctioning part. You can be blamed for the accident because of this.

If you are the employer of the driver that borrowed your car, and the driver was at work when the car accident occurred, you might be held fully liable for the accident damages.

The moment you give another driver permission to use your car, you are legally responsible for that decision.

In some instances, you can be fully liable if you give your car to an incompetent or unfit driver.

This is referred to as negligent entrustment.

It could be used against you if you gave your car to sickly drivers or those that you knew had a history of reckless driving or driving while under the influence, elderly drivers, or inexperienced ones.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney

Being held liable for a car accident that you weren’t even part of might seem unfair. However, you shouldn’t let this pass without a fight.

Is the Owner of a Car Liable for an Accident?

Contact a car accident lawyer right away. You need to determine the fault percentage in the car accident to reduce your costs or prove fault. 

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