Liability and limits for permissive drivers


Permissive Use Statute Liability: If a motor vehicle owner gives express or implied permission to a person use a motor vehicle, and that driver wrongfully (negligently or intentionally) causes injury or death to a person or damage to property, the vehicle owner is also vicariously liable [Vehicle Code §17150].

Owner Liability Limits: Owner liability under Vehicle Code §17150 generally has a maximum dollar limit of $15,000 per injured person but $30,000 per occurrence even if more than two people are injured, and $5,000 for property damage [Vehicle Code §17151; see also Vehicle Code §17155].

Proposition 51 does not apply: The car owner’s liability is not based on comparative fault rules [Civil Code §1431.2(a)].  Thus, Proposition 51, which limits the owner’s noneconomic (pain and suffering) damages liability, does not apply under this statutory scheme. [Rashtian v. BRAC-BH, Inc. (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 1847, 1854].

Driver Liability Amount Not Limited: The permissive use statute does not cap or limit the liability amount owed by the vehicle driver, but only the vehicle owner.

Owner liability amount not limited based on other non-statutory legal theories: The permissive use statute does not limit the liability amount owed by the owner based on another viable legal theory (other than permissive use) such as, for examples, negligent entrustment to an “incompetent, reckless, or inexperienced driver” (Syah v. Johnson (1966) 247 Cal.App.2d 534, 538), employee operating vehicle within course and scope or employment (respondeat superior), and failure to properly maintain brakes (Fremont Compensation Ins. Co. v. Hartnett(1993) 19 669).

Rental car companies: “Permissive use” liability generally does not apply to an owner who is in the business of renting or leasing vehicles. [49 U.S.C. §30106]

Insurance Coverage for Permissive Users: California law generally requires that automobile insurance policies cover permissive drivers under the owner’s liability policy [Insurance Code§11580.1(b)(4)] but the insurer can limit permissive user coverage by use of clear and conspicuous language to $15,000/$30,000/$5,000 [See Vehicle Code §16056; Haynes v. Farmers Insurance Exchange (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1198, 1205].

Must Sue Both Owner and User: If the injured or damaged party files a lawsuit, he or she must, in general, sue both the owner and driver for the permissive use statutes to apply [Vehicle Code §17152].

Owner and Cross-Sue User: The vehicle owner has a right to recover from the driver the amount of any judgment and costs he or she paid the injured party [Vehicle Code §17153].

About Daniel McKenna

Dan McKenna
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.