She is covered under her father's policy and is not on mine. She is a liscensed driver of legal drinking age. Breathalizer was over limit.
Your exposure will be determined by whether you negligently entrusted the car to her. That is a fact based determination, depending on your knowledge. But more importantly, does she have counsel for the DUI? There are severe administrative sanctions through the MVA, including suspension and revocation, if she doesn't make certain requests in time. And she may be eligible for the ignition interlock program (it varies with age). She will also have to deal with the criminal charge. She needs counsel.
There is no risk of criminal/traffic charges against you. There is a risk of civil liability to anyone she injured or caused to suffer damages; however, your liability depends on proof of certain facts. generally, the owner of a car is NOT personally liable for the negligent conduct of a permissive user of the car, although your insurance policy would be on the hook to cover her negligence because she was driving your insured car. There are two factual scenarios under which you could be held liable for the damages she caused: (1) if you entrusted the vehicle to her when you knew at the time that she was drunk, or was planning to become drunk, or was otherwise a known hazardous or reckless driver; or (2) she was driving the vehicle for your benefit, such as running an errand for you to the store or making a delivery for you, etc. The first basis of liability is known as "negligent entrustment"; the second basis of liability is known as "principal-agent", meaning she was acting as your agent at the time she committed her negligent act. In either case, your policy of liability insurance will cover both you and her liability (unless she was a named excluded driver under the terms of your auto policy).
First, your daughter should immediately get an attorney to defend the DUI charges. When an individual receives a DUI, she faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and/or $1,000.00 fine. If convicted, she could have your license revoked or suspended. There many things that an attorney can do to prepare a defense of the charges and appropriate mitigation. If she is a first time offender, she may be able to receive probation before judgment even if she is convicted which means that she can keep her record clean. She should not pay any of the minor citations that are payable offenses since some of these charges may be dropped at trial.
In addition, the MVA will automatically suspend her license unless she requests an administrative hearing within a very short timeframe. There are many issues that arise here and she needs to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
She may have a duty to cooperate with her own insurance company (the insurance company on the car). When she speaks with the attorney about the DUI, they can also advise her on this issue. Insurance is primary in Maryland on the vehicle she is driving so that will be the insurance company that will cover the accident. If she has a separate policy through her father, that may provide secondary coverage.
In summation, she needs to speak with an attorney as soon as possible about these issues. Most of us provide free consultations.
You and your daughter need to speak with a DUI lawyer before speaking with the insurance company. In Maryland, you owe a duty to the insurance company to assist them in handling claims, BUT any conversations your daughter has with the insurance company can be used to convict her of the underlying DUI charge. A way around this is to have an attorney speak with the insurance company on behalf of your daughter.
Before you speak with ANY lawyer, though, you should read my free book on how to choose a DUI lawyer in Maryland ( you can get it on my website).
It's unlikely that the state might bring a criminal charge related to negligence against you, but it might. More likely your insurance company might deny coverage or refuse to renew your policy. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you evaluate the prosecution's case, any defenses that you might have, and any plea offer that might be made, so that you can decide whether to go to trial. Consider seeking a confidential consultation.
Let's put the vehicle aside for a moment and hope that your daughter is okay. Then address her immediate need: SHE NEEDS AN ATTORNEY. I apologize for the use of all caps but I cannot be more serious when stating the need for an attorney in this matter. A DUI is a very serious charge, that can carry serious penalties in the courts, as well as license penalties administratively. An attorney can help guide you through this process and advise you every step of the way. There may be genuine facts of dispute which need immediate attention, so do not wait.
To the issue of your liability, remember that the insurance covers the vehicle and not the driver. You will likely need to go through your insurance and total out the vehicle. Hopefully, the vehicle was paid off or you carry gap insurance for any difference in the balance owed, if it is more than you receive.
I would be happy to assist you in this matter. Please feel free to contact my office: 301-455-9513
Seth R. Okin, Esq.
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