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Is the WA State Financial Responsibility Law enough to get a judgement against the registered owner who was not the driver?

Seattle, WA |

I am currently confused about the responsibilities of the registered owner of the car who hit me totaling my car and causing tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

The driver was the son-in-law of the registered owner and the driver does not have insurance. It was found out later on that the registered owner didn't have insurance either. So, who is responsible? The driver is young and doesn't have assets but the registered owner is a home-owner with small business.

Would the Financial Responsibility Law hold up in court to obtain a judgement against a registered owner who was not the driver who caused the collision damages?

Washington State Financial Responsibility Law:
http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/suspenduninsuredaccidents.html

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

The owner of a car is often responsible for damages caused by somebody who drove the car negligently. It might be worthwhile to sue. Once you get a judgment against the owner and driver, you can collect on the judgment for 10 years and renew it for another 10 years. Good luck.

[In accordance with the Avvo community guidelines, this communication does not constitute "legal advice", nor does it form an attorney-client relationship.]

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Posted

There are a variety of ways to hold a vehicle owner responsible for damage a permissive driver caused - the insurance requirement is not one of them. Family car doctrine, negligent entrustment . . . All very fact-specific. You will need to consult with an attorney.

The answer above is not legal advice, and I'm not your lawyer. At best, it's a hint in the right direction. Reliable legal advice comes from an attorney licensed in your state who has all the necessary information and time to form an opinion, and that usually requires an in-person consultation, which you can often obtain for free with no obligation. Don't be shy - attorneys are people, too - call one.

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5 comments

Asker

Posted

The driver was a son-in-law of the registered owner. The driver lived down the street (not in the same house). Would the financial responsibility law hold up in court in this case?

Paul Michael Veillon

Paul Michael Veillon

Posted

Not residing in the same household will cause a problem for you. The financial responsibility law is generally between the owner and the state, not the owner and you. Merely owning a vehicle does not give rise to a civil cause of action for damages. His license may be suspended. What are the chances you have PIP, UIM, and collision coverage. Those would be your best friends at this point.

Paul Michael Veillon

Paul Michael Veillon

Posted

If you don't have those coverages, there are still creative ways to investigate coverage. Most personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations. I'd recommend taking advantage of that.

Asker

Posted

The registered owner did have an insurance policy but the car that hit me was not his policy at the time of the accident.

Paul Michael Veillon

Paul Michael Veillon

Posted

Your own PIP, UIM, collision, lawyer . . . Finding coverage under circumstances like yours requires the attention and information available in an in-person consultation.

Posted

I think I answered this question under the PI Category, this answer would apply here as well:

Your question raises several questions: Do you have uninsured motorists coverage on your insurance policy? If so, turn in a claim under your policy. Did the son-in law reside with the registered owner, and did the registered owner provide the vehicle for his use? If so, the registered owner would most likely be vicariously responsible for the negligent acts of the driver under the Family Car Doctrine. There is valid Washington case law on point. Have you discussed this claim with a conpetent attorney? I recommend you so so as soon as possible.

I would need to discuss the facts with you in detail to provide better advice. Much depends on the relationship between the registered owner and the son-in-law to any conclusion about legal responsibility for your damages. If you want to do the research yourself, look up Washington Family Car Doctrine for starters, then consult an attorney.

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