What should you do if a family member borrows your car and crashes it? Are you on the hook?
A prospective client called because his nephew borrowed his car without his permission and crashed it. Now the insurance company for the other driver is going after him for the property damage. And he is stuck for the bill for the damage to his own car. What can he do?
As the owner of the car, this person is on the hook. In California, the owner of the car can be on the hook for up to $15,000 for injuries and $3,000 for property damage. See California Vehicle Code Section 17151.
If the accident was his nephew’s fault, he can try to collect from his nephew. One option is to sue the nephew in small claims court to recover the damage to his car and whatever amount he is on the hook for. He will be able to get a judgment against his nephew but that might not be helpful. A judgment doesn’t mean you will get paid it. You still have to collect. If his nephew is broke, it won’t be easy to collect anything.
He can also try contesting the crash but if his nephew is clearly at fault, it probably won’t be successful.