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Implied consent to drive a vehicle, and shared liability
by Will H
(Austin, Texas, USA)
My son was given the keys to his friend’s car to get something out of the vehicle, he then sat in the driver's seat and the group decided to leave and go to a different location. The car owner got in the backseat and my son drove the vehicle. The owner then decided once they were on a dark highway with minimal shoulders to ask my son to stop driving. The others in the car as well as my son felt it better to get to the parking lot just a little up the road and stop there.
In the parking lot my son hit a parked car, doing no damage to it (the parked car owners were notified), but some damage was done to the vehicle my son was driving. The damage is far beyond what would be expected to have been done in the accident described by both boys, and come to find out the car had been driven into a ditch before by the owner. The parent of the boy who owns the vehicle (and did not know about the prior ditch incident) wants us to be liable for all of the damage to the vehicle because my son was driving.
I believe there is some shared responsibility here as my son was given implied permission to drive the vehicle when the owner got in the backseat and not until later when it was unsafe asked my son to stop driving. My son did stop in the nearest safe location unfortunately that is when the accident occurred.
We have offered to pay half of the total to fix the car, even damage that was unrelated to the accident to other parts of the vehicle and were turned down. The owner then had a third estimate done that was specific to the front end of the vehicle, and we offered to cover half of that cost. We are still willing to cover half the cost, but the parent of the owner is now threatening to file suit in small claims court and have my son ticketed.
The parent's claim there insurance provider will not cover any of the cost of the repairs, and my son being underage and unlicensed does not have insurance. Was there implied consent given, and therefore some of the liability would fall on the owner or the owner's insurance. Or is the insurance company correct in their assessment that all of the liability lies with my son?
Hello Will H,
We are sorry for the delay, we were in vacation.
Why is the claim being denied by his insurance? Collision coverage on the vehicle should cover this damage.
With that being said, liability rests with the driver (your son). It is true that he was given permission and that the owner was there, but once a driver takes control of a car, he/she assumes responsibilities for those actions.
The only modifier is if the owner knew or should of know that your son was drinking and therefore he would cause and accident, but still decided to let him drive. In that case, both would have responsibility. It appears that there was no alcohol here and it was your son driving when he hit a parked vehicle. I am afraid that would make him liable to the vehicle.
Where it gets confusing:
1. Your son is an insured under the policy of the vehicle he was driving (so long as he had permission to drive – yes implied permission is enough, AND he does not have this specific vehicle available for his regular use. This assumes they have collision coverage. In which case, the insurance company of the vehicle would have to pay subject to the deductible they have on that policy.
2. Prior damage is not covered by this claim. You should not be covering any of that, only the damage he caused.
If they don’t have coverage on that policy, it is possible that the policy of your household would cover the damage. They will do an investigation and pay what they decide the damage he caused only.
As always, it is very important that you talk with a local attorney!
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