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Who should pay for the damage, when the owner gave a drunk person the keys? The owner or the driver

Durham, NC |

If 2 people go out drinking together, and at the end of the night the driver/owner of the car gives the keys to the vehicle to their drunk non-licensed friend(blackout drunk) and walks away to walk another friend to their car and returns and the drunk friend and the car are gone, and the car is found damaged, who is responsible for the damage to the vehicle? Neither party knows exactly what happened, there is just speculation to what possibly happened.

Attorney Answers 3


It depends as to what the owner intended to happen. Did the owner say : "wait for me in the car" or go home , take my car." If the owner intended his friend to wait and the friend took off with his car without the owner's consent, then the drunk driver would be mostly responsible. However, if the owner says: "go home , take my car." and the owner knew that the driver was drunk, then the owner would be mostly responsible and if an accident occurred, the owner would be responsible for the damages to another person for negligent entrustment of his vehicle. Best of luck.

This answer is provided by Manuel A. Juarez, Esq., El Abogado de Accidentes de Autos de California: 510-206-4492. El Abogado de Accidentes de Autos provides answers of a general context. These answers are not intended to form an attorney client relationship. El abogado de Accidentes de Autos y Lesiones Personales practices in Antioch, Berkeley, Concord, Oakland, Hayward, Martinez, Newark, Richmond, San Francisco and San Rafael. El abogado de accidentes y lesiones is licensed only in California. This information is good only in California and it is not to be taken as legal advice on car accidents, personal injury, divorce, bankruptcy or in any other type of situation. Esta respuesta es del Abogado de Accidentes de Autos y Lesiones Personales de Acidentes de carros, Manuel A. Juárez, 510-206-4492. Abogado Hispano de Accidentes, Divorcios, Abogado Latino de Accidentes, y Abogado de Acidentes de Oakland, Hayward, San Francisco, y California. Estas respuesta son solo para información general y no consisten en consejo legal sobre divorcios, mantención de esposas, mantención de hijos o bancarrotas. Las respuestas son comentarios legales que no forman una relación de abogado y cliente. Manuel Juarez, Esq., esta licenciado solo en el Estado de California.

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Did the friend give the keys so the other person could drive or so they could just sit in the car and wait? Ultimately the driver would bear responsibility to some degree regardless if not all responsibility for driving.

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That's a tough factual scenario, and I'm not sure anyone on here can give you a definite answer. There's a harsh rule in North Carolina called "contributory negligence." The rule basically provides that if you're even 1% at-fault for an incident, such as a car accident, you are not entitled to recover from the otherwise predominantly negligent party. There's certainly an argument to be made on behalf of the insurer that handing the car keys to someone you know was black out drunk amounts to contributory negligence. You should call a few local firms and see what they have to say.

T. Shawn Howard

The information provided should not be considered legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship. I am not licensed to practice in any State other than North Carolina. The results of your case will depend on the presentation of evidence, the law and other factors that may change depending on an in depth analysis of the facts of the case. Please see an attorney before making legal decisions.

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