Can I be sued if...?


So I have a pickup truck, and as all truck owners know, if you have a truck people will ask to borrow it. Normally I dont have much problem with this, as long as they arent moving bodies I will usually say yes.

So last week my wife goes to some seminar about protecting your money. She comes back and says that we can no longer allow people to borrow our cars because if we do, and they get into an accident, we can be sued. Now on the surface this sounds silly, and I told my wife so. Well we got into this huge “discussion” about it…and well, looks like if you need a truck you shouldnt ask me.

Now my question is this; Can I be sued if I lend my truck to someone, and to my knowledge NOTHING is wrong with the truck it runs perfectly, and their dumbass just hits someone. Am I in trouble?

Any bloodsuck…erm, lawyers out there have any input I would appreciate it greatly!

I’m not a lawyer, and neither do I have an answer for you. I simply wanted to point out that referring to lawyers as bloodsuckers is probably not the best way to preface a request for help from lawyers.

I mean, would you go up to a police officer and say “Hey, pig, could you give me directions to 4[sup]th[/sup] street?”

IANAL. That said;

Can you be sued? Sure. Anybody can be sued.

Can you be sued successfully, that’s the question.

It wouldn’t hurt to ask your insurance agent – there is probably some policy rider, or a ‘blanket liability’ policy, that will cover your ass inexpensively. I can’t imagine the insurance industry neglecting this area.

I disagree. My lawyer friends love being referred to as bloodsuckers.

Danalan, stop being obtuse. Everyone knows that if someone asks “Can I be sued” they really mean “Can I be sued successfully.” Sheesh. The last part of your post was helpful, though.

First, caveats: This is not legal advice, just an anonymous discussion on a message board. Do not rely on it. Check your own state’s specific law on this, because it does vary by state.

OK, here we go:

The cause of action the borrower could bring would be based in negligence, and the basic theory would be that you failed to exercise due care and such failure was the proximate cause of an injury to the borrower.

So, can you be sued successfully if someone else runs into the borrower while driving your car and the borrower is injured? Yes, but only if your failure to maintain the car or warn the borrower about any special danger caused the borrower to be injured more than he would have been if the car was in pristine condition.

Can you be sued if the borrower runs into someone else? Yes, but only if your failure to maintain the car or warn the borrower about any special danger caused the borrower to get into the accident.

The question really comes down to what constitutes prudent care to your truck and what constitutes prudent care when letting someone else drive the truck. Should you inspect it before you let the borrower drive it? The law of your state may say yes, but I wouldn’t think it would be necessary if you drive the truck every day (just my opinion). You should also tell the borrower of any known conditions with it.

So, what’s the bottom line? If I had a relatively new truck that I maintained properly and there weren’t any issues with it, I personally wouldn’t feel like I’m exposing myself to much liability by letting a friend borrow it.

Well considering most lawyers are souless with hearts of black ice, I doubt they care! And for the particulary slow…I was attempting a jest using the typical Lawyer sterotypes. Im sure the bloodsuckers will forgive me :slight_smile:

Try calling your auto insurance company and ask this question. I’m fairly certain that the answer will be that as the registered owner of the car you are responsible for any damages or injuries caused by someone you lend your car to. In this case the people suing you will not have to show negligence on your part. The idea here is that the person you lend the car to doesn’t necessarily have insurance and so the injured party can come after you as well as the actual driver. So bear this in mind when someone asks to borrow your truck. Maybe suggest they rent one instead.

Agree. Your insurer might be on the hook for damage caused by a guest driver. If such a claim is made, it certainly won’t help your rates.

Also, I would point out that if the guest driver causes serious harm, there is a very good chance that you WILL be sued. Even if the case has no merit, it can still cause headaches.

And note that even if you exercise reasonable care, the proofs might suggest otherwise. For example, your guest-driver friend, in an effort to exculpate himself, might claim that there was something wrong with the car. As an attorney, I can assure you that a very high percentage of people will tell any lie necessary to avoid liability.

That said, I would probably lend my truck to very close friends and family members. And nobody else.

(standard disclaimer about legal advice)

Slight hijack: I was told that if my adult son who lives with us is at fault in an accident and he didn’t have insurance that I could (succesfully) be sued even though he owns the car and it is registered in his name. The reason being that he was in the same household as us. :smack: And I imagine even if he had the minimum amount of insurance the other party could go after us under the same theory (whatever that might be). (We live in California)

I suppose I should follow my own advice and call my insurance company. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. In the meantime, is there an attorney out there that can address this question?

You should also consider the insurance regime in your jurisdiction, whether or not the person borrowing the vehicle has insurance, and if not, if there is any statutory liability that might fall back on you as owner.

Rufus: Sounds like someone wants to sell you more insurance. I cannot think of any theory that would have even a remote chance against you under these facts. California law is weird, but not that weird.

Just to make sure I understand: His car. He’s over 18. You are not on the car title in any capacity. You’re not in the car. You don’t maintain it for him. He’s not mentally disabled, or under any other legal disability that makes you specially responsible for him. He has no unusual driving, drinking or criminal history that might make him an extreme risk to the public. The theoretical plaintiff is a stranger to you.

Disclaimer. Although IAAL, I’m not your lawyer, and am not licensed in your state. This is general information and not meant to be reliable legal advice. See a California attorney for that.

Dob: You’re on your own. My brother Joe called it right.

What is the legal basis on a Robber suing someone for tripping on a victims porch?

That the porch was unreasonably dangerous.
A couple observations: These kind of suits happen rarely, but get a whole lot of press. Second, the body of law (indirectly, I admit) derives from some old cases that say that you can defend your person with deadly force, but not your property. In other words, I can’t set up a mantrap or spring-gun on my land to harm or kill a trespasser. Similarly, if I have a hidden danger in my house, or on my land, I can’t completely avoid liability by saying that the person harmed was on my property illegally. (I’ll avoid discussing the common law distinction between invitees, licensees and trespassers, as (i) the distinction no longer applies in most states; and (ii) another poster will be along soon to talk about what common law used to say.

Sometimes they mean that. But sometimes they also mean “Could I really be sued, even though the action isn’t ultimately meritorious enough to prevail at trial, but falls short of being so facially ridiculous that it can be dismissed right away on the pleadings, thereby requiring me to spend not-insignificant money and time on lawyers, etc., whereupon I will be unable to recoup any of the costs of my defense, even when I prevail?” And many people, esp. non-Americans, are genuinely surprised to learn that the answer to this question is “Sure, that could happen.”

So Danalan wasn’t being a complete wiseass; s/he made or hinted at at least two useful points that I can see: (a) liability can exist (or be asserted to exist) against people not directly involved in a tort, especially when those people have deeper pockets than the actual wrongdoer and can, by twisting of not-necessarily-apposite tort theories, by ostensibly linked to the tort; and (b) frivolous or baseless lawsuits can be filed by anyone with $150 filing fee (and the consequences of such baseless filings are, at least in the U.S., almost always more severe for the defendant than for the plaintiff – a situation that some might want to talk to their legislators about).

Let’s not forget vicious, three-headed dogs. Just as dangerous as Mantraps (???) and always show up on the bar exam.

thank you for all the responses…btw I did call my insurance company (Progressive) in VA. And this is what they told me.

If the person driving my car does NOT live in my house, and drives it less than 12x a year, my insurance would cover any damages.

If the person driving my car DOES live in my house and drives my car(no matter if its only once or 24 times), than my insurance will not cover me, it would have to be the drivers insurance.

In either case I was told that I could be sued if the damages done exceed my policy, the Progressive CSR said it happens quite often actually.

So there ya go! btw, this is not any sort of legal advice, just simply what my insurance rep told me.

Standard Disclaimer: I’m not licensed to practice in your jurisdiction, and I’m not offering you legal advice. I’m not your lawyer, you’re not my client. If you need legal advice, contact someone licensed in your jurisdiction.

Now, with that said, as to the general theoretical question “can I be legally liable if I lend my truck to someone and he gets in an accident.” The answer is yes. First lets deal with the liability issues, then we’ll come back to the question whether your insurance company would cover any resulting losses.

Previous posters have already covered one basis for liability: if you are negligent, i.e. don’t use the amount of care a reasonable person would use, in maintaining the truck. Extreme example: you took all the lugnuts off, forgot to put them back on, and then lent the truck to someone without telling him. As he’s driving, the wheels fall off, the truck crashes and somebody gets hurt.

But even if your truck is in tip top shape, you could still be negligently liable for an accident if you were negligent in your decision to permit a really bad/crazy/drunk driver to borrow your truck. Extreme example: your friend Crazy Larry, who you know has been in 12 auto accidents, shows up at your door at 3 in the morning, clearly drunk and says “hey can I borrow your truck, I just need to drive around for awhile so I can clear my head”. An person exercising reasonable care would NOT lend their truck out to Crazy Larry under these circumstances. Now, of course, if you did lend your truck to Crazy Larry, and he hit somebody, they could sue Crazy Larry. But let’s say Crazy Larry is penniless. Now what? Well, now the victim comes after you for negligently permitting Crazy Larry to use your truck.

These are not the only circumstances under which you could be liable, but they are the main ones I can think of.

Now, the next question is whether, in the event of a loss, your insurance company would cover you. That question is entirely separate from the question of your liability. That is a matter of the contract between you and your insurance company, and whatever regulations govern that contract.

Broadly speaking, here’s how auto insurance works. You get sued for damages arising out of an auto accident. Let’s say under one of the circumstances discussed above. Then the question is, is subject matter of the suit covered by your insurance contract. (As you can imagine, this question can itself be the subject of litigation if you think you are covered and the insurance company thinks you aren’t). If yes, the insurance company defends the suit: they pay for the lawyer, etc. And, if you lose the suit, the insurance company pays the recovery, UP TO THE LIMIT OF YOUR POLICY. Anything above that, you are on the hook for.

[further hijack] Do I owe a duty of assistance to people who are on my property illegally?

Supposing that Carl Criminal is breaking into my house to rob me, and I am not home. He is jimmying an upstairs window, slips off, and falls, breaking his back.

I come home, spot him moaning on the lawn, and step over him on my way into the house. I don’t even call the police.

Am I liable in any way? [/further hijack]


Q: How many lawyer jokes are there?
A: Two. The others are true stories.

Okay, I’ll bite, even though this isn’t really my area. Generally, you owe no duty to assist or rescue anyone. See a stranger drowning? Go ahead and pull up a chair and watch him die if you want. You’re not required to do anything, even if you could easily save him. (I do have a vague recollection that at least one state has changed this rule by statute, but don’t hold me to that.)

Of course, there are exceptions. If you owe some special duty to that person, or if you’ve somehow undertaken to look out for him, you might be on the hook. You better not ignore the drowning guy if you’re the municipal lifeguard on duty, or he’s a minor child in your care. Also, if you start to help, and then decide that it’s too much trouble and quit, you’re at risk. The idea here is that someone else might have helped, or at least called for assistance if he didn’t see you (apparently) taking care of the situation. Similarly, if you try to help, but somehow make the situation worse though some negligence on your behalf, you might be liable. To address this, many states have Good Samaritan laws that immunize health care professionals (and sometimes anyone) who renders aid in an emergency.

I’m not aware of any exception that would change the general rule just because the accident happens on your property. Though if you do ignore the robber, it won’t help you with the jury if they think that you somehow were responsible for the original injury. I’d call 911.

Disclaimer. Although IAAL, I’m not your lawyer. This is general information and not reliable legal advice. In fact, it’s not legal advice at all, reliable or otherwise. See a lawyer licensed in your state for that. Legal or not, you’re still an asshole if you let someone drown, unless he’s O.J., Osama or someone who posts lame lawyer jokes.