WHEN BORROWED CAR CAUSES ACCIDENT, OWNER AND DRIVER RESPONSIBLE – MN INJURY LAWYER
The Minnesota Safety Responsibility Act, MS §169.09(5a), provides that in case of an accident involving a car or other motor vehicle, the motor vehicle owner who gave another person express or implied permission to use his car is liable to those injured by the vehicle’s operation. The Safety Responsibility Act was adopted because the legislature decided that as between an innocent third party injured by the negligent operation of an automobile and the owner of that automobile who permitted another person to drive it, the vehicle owner should bear the cost of the injuries.
The law in Minnesota therefore requires every automobile insurance policy to cover the damages caused by the driver of a car when the owner allowed him to use it, including personal injuries from the accident.
Even an auto dealer who lets a prospective customer test drive a car is subject to this law and is responsible if the driver causes an accident.
The primary exception to this law is if the owner of the vehicle did not give permission for the driver to use or borrow the car. However, the owner of a vehicle has the burden of proving that he did not consent to the driver’s operation of the vehicle. The burden of proving lack of permission requires a strong showing that the automobile was being used without the owner’s knowledge and contrary to his or her explicit instructions. Permission may be found from all surrounding facts and circumstances, including discussions relating to use of vehicle, purpose for using vehicle, and relationship between vehicle’s owner and driver. The strongest evidence of implied permission is a series of prior uses without express permission and yet without objection by the owner. Implied consent may also be inferred from a familial relationship between the vehicle owner and the driver or between the owner and the person who gave the driver permission to use the car. Our car accident lawyers have handled several cases where there was a question about whether the owner of the vehicle gave permission to the driver, or the driver exceeded the permission for us of the car.
Once it is determined that initial permission was given by the vehicle owner for the other person to borrow and drive, major departures from the initial scope of permission (e.g. taking employer’s vehicle for joy ride when permission was limited only to driving it home and back), short of theft, do not relieve the owner from liability for the borrower’s negligent use of the vehicle in causing a car accident or injury. An owner’s demand for the return of a motor vehicle alone does not effectively terminate the permission initially granted for its use. Instead, when a request for the return of a car contemplates additional driving, the initial permission is extended to allow the permittee to return the borrowed car.
If you are injured in a car accident where the owner of the vehicle loaned it to the driver, or you are injured while a passenger in a borrowed car, you may have a claim against the insurance of the owner of the car as well as the insurance of the driver. When you call our office, an experienced MN lawyer will explain the insurance issues to you and advise you of your rights.
Pam Rochlin and David Rochlin are experienced Minnesota car accident personal injury lawyers with more than 25 years’ experience successfully handling hundreds of injury cases. Pam Rochlin is a former partner at Meshbesher and Spence, and offers small firm attention and personal service. Pam and David are married and we treat our clients like they are a part of our family. We have offices where you can come to discuss your car accident personal injury case in Edina, Minneapolis, St. Louis Park and Woodbury. We also meet our car accident clients at their homes in St. Paul, Chanhassen, Chaska, Maple Grove, Apple Valley, Burnsville, White Bear Lake, Brooklyn Park, and other cities throughout Minnesota. We will always provide you with a free initial consultation and we never charge anything unless you receive compensation for your injuries.