Can claimants sue an owner of the vehicle if owner was not a driver in accident?
8 attorney answers
If the driver of the car was a permissible user, then the owner of the car is liable for $15,000.00/$30,000.00 for personal injury and $5,000.00 for property damage. Whether he may be evicted is a question of landlord tenant law. My professional opinion as a car accident attorney is that he can not get evicted because of this incident.
Almost always the owner will be sued; the insurance companies take over and work the process on behalf of the defendants. Th owner may have his own liability apart from the driver, if or example the car was not maintained such that a dangerous condition existed that may have contributed to the accident (bald tires on a rainy day, for ex), so in that situation as well as the situation where the owner allowed the driver to drive under the influence or similar reckless disregard, then the owner's liability can potentially exceed the policy limits, if this happens and there is a judgment against the owner, they can put a judgment lien on the home. Hence my colleagues advise to record a homestead exemption if you haven't already, to protect some of the equity, Owner needs to hire an attorney now. in addition to the insurance company's attorney, to look out for owners best interests.
The foregoing is for informational purposes only and may not be relied on as attorney-client advice.
The owner should turn the matter over to his insurance company. Owner liability is 15,000 per person, 30,000 per accident, so that if he has insurance, his assets will never be in jeopardy.
Either or both of the defendants can be sued for the deficiency. If any of them have properties or bank accounts, those assets can be reached to satisfy the judgment. One way around it would be to file for bankruptcy. The owner cannot be evicted from his primary residence, however, there can be a lien put on that residence, and perhaps a foreclose sale can also be initiated. This process will not start, however, unless and until there is a judgment in place.
As the owner of the car, you would be responsible for the State minimum of $15,000/$30,000. The primary defendant is the negligent operator of the vehicle. Turn the matter over to your insurance carrier and they will handle.
The owner of a vehicle who permits another to drive the car where the driver is then is in an accident does have liability but it is limited under the Cal Vehicle Code:
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.
(b) An owner, bailee of an owner, or personal representative of a
decedent is not liable under this chapter for damages imposed for the
sake of example and by way of punishing the operator of the vehicle.
Nothing in this subdivision makes an owner, bailee, or personal
representative immune from liability for damages imposed for the sake
of example and by way of punishing him for his own wrongful conduct.
You should immediately notify your insurance carrier. You should homestead your principal residence for lots of reasons, including this case.
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.
Homestead your property immediately! In California , the owner of a vehicle is responsible for the damage it causes.
Get representation in addition to the representation offered by your insurance if you truly think that the damages will exceed policy limits.
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