My mother purchased a car to gift to my brother. It was registered under my mother's name. They were going to transfer ownership within the next couple of days. Because she was going to do this, she had not yet transferred her old car's insurance this new car. Yesterday, my brother let his girlfriend borrow the car. She got into a four car collision, and I believe she is at fault. She also ran into a store and caused property damage. The car was uninsured. My mom was unaware that my brother let his girlfriend drive her car. Who is liable for damages?
Both the owner of the car and the driver have liability for the accident. If the owner was not the driver the liability is limited to 17151. (a) The liability of an owner, bailee of an owner, or personal representative of a decedent imposed by this chapter and not arising through the relationship of principal and agent or master
and servant is limited to the amount of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) for the death of or injury to one person in any one accident and, subject to the limit as to one person, is limited to the amount of thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) for the death of or injury to more than one person in any one accident and is limited to the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000) for damage to property of others in any one accident.
The brother may have liability for "negligent entrustment".
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
The owner of the car and the driver of the vehicle both have liability exposure in this scenario. In some states, if you live with family members who have separate policies, they can also be liable so long as they were not specifically excluded from the policy, and if you live in a state that utilizes "matching" you could have access to the policy limits times the number of vehicles on that policy, or if there is "stacking" on the policy, you can stack the number of insured drivers. These special circumstances change based on state law for both the location of the accident, and where the at-fault or UIM drivers/vehicle owners are insured.
The owner of the vehicle, assuming insurance coverage is extended to the new vehicle (they are sometimes covered so long as there isn't a clause that specifically excludes them), and the at-fault driver of the vehicle will likely be represented by the attorneys for their auto insurance policy. I would guess the not at-fault parties will all hire an attorney to represent them in this claim.
Why do you say the car was uninsured? Your mother should read her insurance policy. Many policies provide for an automatic 30 day period of coverage for a newly acquired vehicle, which this may have been.
Given the potential seriousness of this situation, I suggest that your mother pay for a consultation with a local attorney to review her policy and give further advice. Your mother should not be giving statements to her carrier without legal representation. The girl driving the car hopefully has her own car insurance either in her name or through her parents. This needs to be determined too.
Legal Disclaimer: If this information has been helpful, please indicate below. Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
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