Legal Question in Civil Litigation in California

Is a person liable if he lets someone drive his car and that person has an accident?

There was something called the "deep pocket" rule where the assets of the owner of something is gone after. I know the answer might be - sure, anyone can sue anyone for anything, but what is the history or precedent, what is the law, if any.

This is just a "what if" question.

Asked on 8/31/13, 11:04 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Anthony Roach Law Office of Anthony A. Roach

California has a form of vicarious liability in which the owner of a car is liable if he or she lets someone else drive his or her car and gets into an accident. It is called the "permissive user" doctrine. (Veh. Code, 17150.)

There is a general cap on liability under the permissive user doctrine, however. Owner liability under Vehicle Code section 17150 has a general maximum dollar limit of $15,000 per injured person, $30,000 per occurrence if more than one person is injured, and $5,000 for property damage. (Veh. Code, 17151; see also Veh. Code 17155.)

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Answered on 8/31/13, 12:14 pm

Timothy McCormick Libris Solutions - Dispute Resolution Services

There are special laws for motor vehicles that make the registered owner jointly and severally liable with the driver if the driver causes an accident. It is connected to the law that every registered owner must carry insurance on their vehicles. In theory, at least, this means there will always be insurance coverage to compensate the innocent party even if the driver isn't insured. This is different from the usual rule that only a person who contributes to the harm may be held liable. For example, if you loan someone a chainsaw and they cut down a tree that falls on someone's car, you are not liable unless you did something more that contributed to the accident, such as advising him incorrectly how to cut trees. Either way, it has nothing to do with deep pockets which is a strategic rule for lawyers (if more than one person is liable focus on the one(s) with money who can pay, not defendants who have no money). It is not a rule if law.

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Answered on 8/31/13, 12:25 pm
John Laurie Gertz and Laurie

I agree with the above

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Answered on 8/31/13, 12:40 pm

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