A Registered Owner of a Vehicle May Be Legally Responsible For an Accident Even If They Were Not Driving

When someone is hurt in a motor vehicle accident, the issue of who was at fault is very important to a personal injury claim. The injured person can only collect financial compensation for his or her injuries if the other driver is found to be responsible for causing the accident and resulting injuries. In some cases, however, the driver of the other car is not the only person that may be legally responsible for the accident and injuries. The registered owner of the other vehicle may also be legally responsible for the negligent conduct of the driver.

Legal Responsibility of Registered Owner of the Other Car

As stated above, in some car accident cases, where the driver of the other car was not the owner of that car, someone else other than the driver may be responsible. That someone else is the registered owner. The typical cases this becomes an issue in are when a parent lets their child drive their car or a fried borrows someone's car.

The Massachusetts statute that covers this issue is M.G.L. c. 231 §85A, which provides: “In all actions to recover damages for injuries to the person or to property or for the death of a person, arising out of an accident or collision in which a motor vehicle was involved, evidence that at the time of such accident or collision it was registered in the name of the defendant as owner shall be prima facie evidence that it was then being operated by and under the control of a person for whose conduct the defendant was legally responsible, and absence of such responsibility shall be an affirmative defence to be set up in the answer and proved by the defendant.”

This law does not make the registered owner liable for every accident in which his or her vehicle was involved. The substantive issue in these types of cases is whether the registered owner of the vehicle had the authority and means to control the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident.

The Negligence of the Driver May be Imputed to the Registered Owner

The standard for determining fault in an auto accident is negligence. This means, generally, when someone operates a car in a careless way and causes an injury to another person, under the legal principle of "negligence" the careless driver will be legally liable for the resulting injuries to the other person.

Under M.G.L. c. §85A, the negligent driver’s actions at the time of the accident could be imputed to the registered owner of the motor vehicle, if the owner had the authority and means to control the driver’s conduct.

When this law is implicated it will shift the burden of proof to the defendant / registered owner of the vehicle. Remember, the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit has the burden of proof.  But, when this law is at issue, the defendant / registered owner of the vehicle then has the burden of proving that he or she was not legally responsible.

Speak With An Experienced Accident Lawyer Today

If you have been injured in a car accident, you may have a legal right to seek financial compensation for your injuries. If the other driver wasn’t the owner of the car, the registered owner may be responsible. Find out what your legal rights are. Feel free to contact us online or call (508) 879-3500 to get answers to your questions. 

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