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In Colorado is "owner" of vehicle responsibel for damages ...?


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#1 ldavis58

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 05:57 PM

A few weeks ago my truck was hit by another vehicle. My truck was parked outside my house and the driver of the other vehicle was drunk and running from the police. he was ticketed with several crimes including dui, leaving scene of accident, etc. I am sueing both him and the "owner " of the car he was driving (his wife). My friend told me since I was in COlorado I should sue the owner of the car as well as him to try and get my damages fixed. I can't find the law that clearly states responsibilty of owner.
Any help would be appreciated in clearing this up for me before i make a fool of myself in small claims court.

#2 adjusterjack

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 07:07 PM

There are two related legal concepts that might apply: "negligent entrustment" and the "family car doctrine."

Both are explained by the Colorado Court of Appeals in Hasegawa v Day:

http://co.findacase....40076.CO.htm/qx


Why are you suing? Don't the people have liability insurance?

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#3 Tax_Counsel

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 11:56 PM

I can't find the law that clearly states responsibilty of owner. Any help would be appreciated in clearing this up for me before i make a fool of myself in small claims court.


There is no statute that makes the owner strictly liable for damages caused by others in driving the owner’s car. In other words, the wife isn’t liable here just because she’s the ower of the car. Jack has correctly indicated that negligent entrustment or the family car doctrine might be a viable theory here against the owner, but to succeed you must prove more than just that she is the owner of the car.

In the case of negligent entrustment, you must show, among other factors, that the wife knew or had reason to know that husband would operate the car in a manner that would pose an unreasonable risk of harm to others. Do you have any evidence that indicates she knew or had reason to know that her husband was going to drive the car while under the influence of alcohol or drugs? Anything to show she knew he was likely to cause a risk of unreasonable harm to others?

The family car doctrine, on the other hand, requires that you show, among other things, that the wife is the “head of household,” basically the one in the family who provides the majority of support and is the major decision maker in the household. Merely being a member of the household and having title to the car is not enough. Lee v. Degler, 169 Colo. 226 (1969). You’d therefore need evidence of their family situation that shows she’s the head of household to win under this doctrine.

#4 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 08:52 AM

What damages are you claiming? Have you contacted the car owner's insurance company regarding this accident? You may wish to visit the Accidents and Injuries Center: Car Accidents and read Car Accident Liability as a good resource to learn more about this subject matter.

#5 ldavis58

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 07:00 PM

There are two related legal concepts that might apply: "negligent entrustment" and the "family car doctrine."

Both are explained by the Colorado Court of Appeals in Hasegawa v Day:

http://co.findacase....40076.CO.htm/qx


Why are you suing? Don't the people have liability insurance?

Thank you for replying...
The people have insurance, BUT for some reason the insurance has declined any responsibility. I am not sure why . The rply from the insurance company did not state the reason for declining a claim.

#6 ldavis58

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 07:21 PM

There is no statute that makes the owner strictly liable for damages caused by others in driving the owner’s car. In other words, the wife isn’t liable here just because she’s the ower of the car. Jack has correctly indicated that negligent entrustment or the family car doctrine might be a viable theory here against the owner, but to succeed you must prove more than just that she is the owner of the car.

In the case of negligent entrustment, you must show, among other factors, that the wife knew or had reason to know that husband would operate the car in a manner that would pose an unreasonable risk of harm to others. Do you have any evidence that indicates she knew or had reason to know that her husband was going to drive the car while under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
Thank you for replying..I can try to prove reason by showing a pattern of irresponsibility when he goes "out" and she would have to admit she knew he took the car to go "out"?
Anything to show she knew he was likely to cause a risk of unreasonable harm to others? besides a criminal history on his behalf....I can't think of any.

The family car doctrine, on the other hand, requires that you show, among other things, that the wife is the “head of household,” basically the one in the family who provides the majority of support and is the major decision maker in the household. Merely being a member of the household and having title to the car is not enough. Lee v. Degler, 169 Colo. 226 (1969). You’d therefore need evidence of their family situation that shows she’s the head of household to win under this doctrine.

I could show a scattered work history for him and consistent for her...and how much they make?? But thinking of it now ...I am in small claims court...I can only hope she brings her check stubs?
I appreciate very much all the direction I have gotten thus far.

#7 adjusterjack

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 09:48 PM

Thank you for replying...
The people have insurance, BUT for some reason the insurance has declined any responsibility. I am not sure why . The rply from the insurance company did not state the reason for declining a claim.


Denial letters typically do state a reason for a denial. I suggest you call up the writer of the letter and ask why the claim has been denied.

I don't like to speculate but, given the circumstances, it's possible that the driver has prior DUIs and has been excluded by his wife's policy. They certainly can't be saying that he didn't do it?

See if your own insurance agent will run the guy's driving record for you. Agents often have DMV accounts that allow them to do that.

He might even have taken the car without her realizing it.

By the way, do you have collision insurance on your car? It only makes sense to sue if you don't. If you do, I suggest you have your insurance company cover the damage and let them go after the driver for the money. You won't be surcharged for a not-at-fault accident.


I could show a scattered work history for him and consistent for her...and how much they make?? But thinking of it now ...I am in small claims court...I can only hope she brings her check stubs?
I appreciate very much all the direction I have gotten thus far.


Why would she bring her check stubs? If you are relying on the defendant to bring something to court that makes your case, she would have to be a bit stupid to do that.

I don't think you'll have any trouble getting a judgment against him as the person who damaged your car. I'm not optimistic about getting one against her. All she has to do is testify that he drove off with the car and she couldn't stop him. How would you prove otherwise?

By the way, even if you did get judgments against him, or against both of them, their insurance company could still refuse to pay and you'd be left with going after his wages or bank account.

Sorry if I'm getting you bummed out. But when you are dealing with drunk drivers, bad things happen.

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#8 ldavis58

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Posted 04 February 2013 - 07:40 PM

Thanks Jack for reality check. :)
I have come down a bit and realize I am going to have to pay for this one way or another.
My insurance company rep ******
said" My rate will not go up now, it could HOWEVER go up at the renewal time".
I think I will enjoy my time in court especially if I feel like the DEFENDANT is in a hurry ;)

Thanks again for the help,

Edited by FindLaw_AHK, 05 February 2013 - 07:28 AM.
This post has been edited to remove personal or identifying information. -Moderator





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