• A Question about Leaving a Car with A Neighbor Who then Has an Accident

Question about Liability in a New York Car Accident

What happens if I go on vacation and leave my car and the keys with my neighbor and they promise to not drive the car? They then drive the car and get hit by a drunk driver. Can I be held liable for this car accident?

 Answer about Liability in a New York Car Accident

I hope your neighbor is okay. You find yourself in a complicated position. You may have grounds to pursue damages from your neighbor if he broke a verbal contract by taking your car. However, you may still be held liable for damages suffered by another person in a car accident if your neighbor caused or contributed to that accident while driving your car.

You gave your neighbor the keys to your car and he drove it without your permission. He then had an accident. If he had a single car accident, then you might have grounds to pursue him for damages to your property. But in this case, another person may have been hurt due to the negligent driving of your neighbor. In this situation, there are four potential parties in this accident: the two drivers and the two owners of the vehicles, though it is possible the other driver was also the owner.

Regarding the collision with the other car, while you have a right to be upset with your neighbor, the law and the insurance company will hold you responsible for the use of your car. To avoid liability, you would need to prove that the car was stolen and the fact that you gave the keys to your neighbor would make that all but impossible.

Just because you can be held liable, does not mean that you will. You will need to determine who was at fault for this accident. If the other driver was 100 percent at fault, then you will bear no liability. If your neighbor bears some liability and there are damages negotiated or awarded by the court, then there is an insurance pecking order:

  • The car owner’s (you) insurance goes first. If there are any uncovered damages, then…
  • The car driver’s (your neighbor) insurance goes second. If there are still uncovered damages, then…
  • Your underinsurance or umbrella policy goes next. If there are still uncovered damages, then…
  • The owner (you) or the driver (your neighbor) can be held personally liable depending on who bears responsibility for the crash. In this case, your neighbor would likely go first.

If you have not already done so, you should contact your insurance company immediately.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident case, you may want to consult a New York personal injury attorney experienced with car crash cases. I would be glad to answer your questions and assist you. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email us. You can also visit our website or read more on our blog, New York Law Thoughts.

The Schlitt Law Firm
New York Personal Injury Attorney

This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney. Remember, past results do not guarantee similar outcomes in the future.

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