The Permissive Use Doctrine: When a Car Owner Allows Another Person to Use their Car


Motor vehicles are used every day to get people to work, children to school, and to run important errands.  Motorists place a lot of trust in others while on the road.  We trust them to drive safely and prevent harm to us and our loved ones.  Unfortunately, some drivers continue to drive in a reckless, careless, and negligent manner, potentially leading to accidents.

When an injury results because of a car accident, lives can be changed forever.  Emotions such as anger, confusion, and sadness are common.  People can also suffer financially because of an inability to return to work.  The quality of their daily life can also be permanently diminished.  

Many times after an accident the question a victim has is “what next?”  Last week we wrote about what to do when you are involved in a Hudson motor vehicle accident.  Today we are discussing who may be liable for your injuries.  This is important because sometimes the driver of the car causing your injuries is not the owner.  Thus, there are multiple parties which may be liable for your injury.  This is also important if the driver is unable to compensate you for your injuries.

In this scenario where the driver is not the owner, an experienced Hudson car accident attorney can seek compensation for injuries through the “permissive use doctrine” under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 388.  Under this law, owners of a vehicle that is used or operated in New York “shall be liable and responsible for death or injuries to person or property resulting from negligence in the sue or operation of such vehicle, in the business of such owner or otherwise, by any person using or operating the same with the permission, express or implied, of such owner.”

Under this doctrine, an owner of a vehicle is liable for injuries that are caused by another person’s negligence that was given permission to use the vehicle.  The permission can be either express or implied.  This law allows an attorney to bring a lawsuit against the driver of the vehicle and the owner.  This ensures that all available sources of compensation are available to the victim to fully compensate the injured party for their injuries and damages.

However, there is an exception to the presumption of permissive use.  If there is evidence that the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident was using the vehicle without the permission of the owner, the presumption is rebutted.  If the car was stolen from the owner, the permissive use doctrine does not apply as permission was not given, express or implied.  Therefore, injuries that result from the negligence of the thief are usually not imputed on the owner unless a rare exception applies.

Establishing express or implied permission will often require an experienced Hudson car accident attorney to properly investigate and carefully analyze the factual evidence.  This will determine all the necessary parties to the claim and give the victim the ability to be fully compensated for their injuries and damages.  This is particularly important because motor vehicle accidents can cause serious and life-threatening injuries, such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or even death. 

The attorneys at Greenberg and Greenberg handle car accident cases throughout New York State, including Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, and Albany County.  Our legal team has earned a reputation for dedicated service to our clients injured in New York personal injury accidents.  Please contact us today to receive a free case evaluation by dialing locally to 518-828-3336 or call toll free at 877-469-9300.