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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Unpaid Traffic Tickets and Vicarious Liability: Why You Shouldn't Let People Drive Your Vehicle

Someone who I know complains continually about his adult daughter.  He bought a car for his daughter, in order for her to have transportation to work and college.  He wants her to have a way to get around without asking him for rides all the time.
Well this man has found himself in a bit of a quagmire: His daughter is not a responsible driver.  She has been involved in a couple of minor car accidents (where she was at fault) and has accumulated several unpaid traffic tickets. To make matters worse, her driver's license is now suspended because of the unpaid tickets and failure to appear in court. In the state of Florida, failure to appear and driving with a suspended license, are both arrestable offenses.  So, it would not shock me to learn that she has a warrant out for her arrest.
This doesn't deter her from continuing to drive the car, which is in her father's name, I must add.  It is really his daughter's car but technically he still owns it, since he holds the title.  He says that the reason that he agreed to hold title to the car has to do with the high cost of automobile insurance for people with poor driving records.  He pays her insurance because it is cheaper for him to do it. The insurance premiums aren't affordable for his daughter, due to her age and her train wreck of a driving record.
Quite a few times, in the past his own driver's license was put in jeopardy, due to his daughter's poor driving habits.  In Florida, several cities implement traffic cameras at busy intersections.  The cameras snap photos of cars, when the drivers have broken a law.  So, he was issued many traffic tickets for running red lights.  Only, he wasn't driving the car at the time of the traffic infractions; His daughter was the culprit. The worst part of all, is that he suspects that his daughter abuses drugs. 
I don't normally give advice to people, especially when it comes to their children.  In this case, I suggested that he give her some tough love.  I suggested that he was spoiling his daughter and not allowing her to grow into a responsible adult. Every time she falls, he is there to rescue her instead of allowing her to learn from her mistakes. She doesn't contribute anything towards the auto insurance premiums. Perhaps, she would learn her lesson if he transferred the car title over to her and made her pay for her own insurance.  He patiently listened to my suggestions.  However, I seriously doubt that he will implement any of them.
People will dog your vehicle out, because it is not theirs. 
I was at a local mechanic shop, getting some new tires installed on my car.  While I sat in the waiting room I overheard a conversation between a mechanic and another customer.  The mechanic told the customer that her car’s muffler and some other parts underneath the car were damaged and in need of repair.  The repair costs were very expensive and the woman let out some unsavory words in anger.  She surmised that her son must have driven into some pot holes.  She was certain that he damaged her car, since he was the only other person that drove her car. 
Vicarious Liability: Is it worth the risk?
A county court judge once told a group of us in the court room that we should never let anyone drive our car.  This includes your mother, your father, and even your spouse.  He says the only exception is if you have a 1 million dollar or more umbrella insurance policy.  The judge was a former civil litigation attorney, who cautioned us with good reason.
There is a legal doctrine under the common law, called "vicarious liability".  It simply means liability, with or without fault.  It holds that the owner of an automobile can be held responsible for anything that is done behind the wheel of the automobile.  The owner is liable for any traffic tickets, personal injuries, or property damage caused by the driver of the vehicle regardless of fault.  Therefore, if you allow someone to drive your car, and they cause an accident or incur traffic infractions, both you and the driver can be held responsible or sued. 

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