A person borrowed my husband’s bike, and this person said he thinks he was hit by a car but couldn’t remember. Can my husband be sued by a person hurt by the person who only borrowed his bike? What can we do to protect ourselves?


Generally, the owner of a motor vehicle is vicariously liable for death or injury to person or property resulting from wrongful (negligent or intentional) operation of the vehicle by any person using it with the owner’s express or implied permission [Veh.C. § 17150]. Accordingly, there will always be recourse against both the owner and the permissive-use driver under the owner’s auto insurance policy. Indeed, the permissive use statutes require the driver to be joined as defendant in an action against the owner, so long as the driver is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction.

However, Veh.C. § 17150 does not create “true” vicarious liability … because the statute also puts a dollar cap on the owner’s exposure: Permissive use liability cannot exceed $15,000 per injury, $30,000 per occurrence, and $5,000 for property damage; nor can the driver’s punitive damages liability be imputed to the owner. [Veh.C. § 17151; Veh.C. § 17155].

Following a damages recovery against the owner, the owner is subrogated to the rights of the injured party and may recover from the driver the amount of any judgment and costs he or she paid the injured party [Veh.C. § 17153]. This statutory subrogation right is in addition to the owner’s common law equitable indemnity rights against the operator after a judgment or settlement [Metro U.S. Services, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (1979)].

To be properly guided and represented, work with an experienced personal injury lawyer to know more about the formalities and issues involving permissive use liability.

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