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Washington State co-signer liability in the event of an auto accident

Kirkland, WA |

My father recently helped me purchase a car by co-signing on the loan. Because of his better credit he was listed as the primary owner on the vehicle registration. I have purchased, on my own, a full coverage insurance policy for the car. He is concerned about his liability in the event of an auto accident. In the state of Washington, if I cause an accident, or if someone I let drive the car causes an accident, is there any possiblity someone could come after my father (as a registered owner) for damages.

I should have noted, I am also the co-owner on the registration, however I have the vehicle in my posession, I primairly drive the car and I am the one with an insurance policy on the car. As a consequence of co-signing on the loan my father is also on the vehicle registration. Has there ever been an instance where someone has sought damages from the other registered owner?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Best answer

    It is possible that your father could be responsible for damage caused by your vehicle as a result of being a registered owner. If your insurance policy did not have high enough limits, it is possible that both you and your father could be responsible for damages caused by the operation of the vehicle.

    To minimize the likelihood of this happening, it would be a good idea to get high liability limits on your insurance policy. While it is less expensive to go with lower policy limits, higher policy limits provide more protection to you and your father. Additionally, you could get an umbrella insurance policy which provides extra insurance coverage after your auto insurance policy exhausts its limits.

    I suggest talking to your insurance agent about the liability limits you have on the car. Share the concerns you posted in your question.


  2. It will depend on the law of the location where an accident occurs. In some jurisdictions, for example the District of Columbia, an owner is liable for anyone driving wth the owner's permission. In Virginia, by contrast, that is not the case. I can't tell you about Washington, or any of your neighboring jurisdictions.

    The author of this post is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. This post is intended as general information only, and is not provided as legal advice in connection with any specific case, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.


  3. If you buy sufficient insurance coverage, your insurance company will take care of the damages.

    A person who negligently allows another person to operate the person's vehicle can be found to be liable for damages caused by that another person. If, for example, you have a history of causing damages, there may be a good probability that your father would be found liable for giving you access to a vehicle you use to cause damages.

    The practical solution likely is to buy sufficient insurance coverage so that the insurer will pay the damages regardless of who is named as the defendant.

    You should discuss the situation with your insurance agent so that you know how much different coverages cost.

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