Car Owner Is Responsible When Loaned Car Causes Accident


The Minnesota Safety Responsibility Act, MS §169.09(5a), says what happens if a borrowed car gets in an accident. A motor vehicle owner who gave another person permission to use his car is liable to those injured or damaged by the vehicle’s operation. The Safety Responsibility Act was adopted by the legislature for a good reason. Between an innocent third party injured by the negligent operation of an automobile, and the owner of that automobile who loaned it to another person to drive it, the vehicle owner should bear the cost of the injuries from a car accident.

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. This includes personal injuries from the car 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 someone drives your car without permission. However, the owner of a vehicle has the burden of proving that he did not consent to the driver’s operation of the vehicle. This issue has come up for our car accident lawyers a number of times. 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, and so we focus on that.

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 successfully 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 the car, 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.

Owner of Car Responsible for Accident MN
Owner of Car Responsible for Accident MN

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. David and Pam 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.